Updated on 09/16/2011 7:44AM

If the charge is talent, Jury Box is guilty


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Tom Bell was gambling on the future when he bought Jury Box last fall at the Barretts October yearling sale.

"He wasn't a flashy looking horse," Bell said. "He was a nice walker and pretty correct, but he was backward, unfurnished. The price was right."

Eight months later, Bell's $10,000 final bid looks like a bargain.

On June 30, Jury Box won a maiden race at Hollywood Park by an eye-catching 11 lengths. Ridden by Mike Smith for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Jury Box led throughout and finished 5 1/2 furlongs in a quick 1:03.41.

"He's really taken off in the last few months," Bell said. "He'll be a big horse. He's changed. He's turned into a swan."

The maiden win moved Jury Box to the fore of the California-bred 2-year-old male division, along with Oberwald, the winner of the Haggin Stakes on June 16.

Following the purchase of Jury Box last fall, Bell and partner Ray Hussa, who operate Green Hill Stable, sold shares in the colt to Bill Buster and Victor Hazard.

"I have a little interest, but not a heck of a lot," said Bell, a former trainer.

Jury Box is the latest maiden winner for In Excess, who stands at Vessels Stallion Farm in northern San Diego County. Bred by Ray Smith, Jury Box is out of Right Smart Girl, a winner of one race and $13,125 in a brief career.

The 12-year-old Right Smart Girl has been more productive as a broodmare than on the racetrack, having produced four foals by In Excess. Right Smart Girl's filly Excessive Girl has won seven races and $214,913, while her 3-year-old Smartexcess is a winner and races at Hastings Park in British Columbia, Canada.

Typical of many Lukas-trained 2-year-olds, Jury Box has already had an active career, having made four starts at four tracks.

He debuted with a third as a heavy favorite in a two-furlong maiden race for California-breds at Santa Anita on April 5, losing by a half-length. Two weeks later, he finished third as the favorite over 4 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland after challenging for the early lead.

"Wayne wanted to be leading trainer at Keeneland, which he was, so we shipped [Jury Box] there and he didn't run well," Bell said. "He ran third after making the lead."

Two weeks later at Churchill Downs, Jury Box drew the outside post in a field of eight going 4 1/2 furlongs. Jockey Jerry Bailey sent Jury Box to the front. Jury Box had a 2 1/2-length lead in midstretch, but was caught by Blackjack Boy.

"It looked like he was home easy, but he was beaten," Bell said. "He galloped out past [Blackjack Boy]. He wore blinkers that day and Jerry said he didn't think he saw that horse coming."

A break of nearly two months did Jury Box well. He won as Smith pleased in the June 30 race.

"The last time he worked at Santa Anita, he went in 47 4/5, but the way he did it was unbelievable," Bell said. "We're very pleased with his progress."

The partners and Lukas have a decision to make regarding Jury Box's next start.

The current plan is to bypass the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship over six furlongs on July 21 in favor of the $125,000 Graduation Stakes for California-breds over 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on July 31.

"For $125,000, it should be a softer spot," said Lukas assistant Greg Falk.

The Graduation was a productive race last year. Officer won the race with little effort and later scored victories in the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity and Grade 1 Champagne Stakes.

Such success from Jury Box would suit Tom Bell fine.

"I hope he emulates Officer," Bell said. "He looks like he has a future."