01/01/2009 12:00AM

Jones can start '09 with Grade 1 win

Email

Six-time champion trainer Paul Jones, the odds-on choice to be honored with his seventh consecutive title in a few weeks, starts the new year with the championship-caliber mares Strength in Numbers and Blazin Fire in the Grade 1, $100,000 Charger Bar Handicap for fillies and mares at Los Alamitos on Saturday night.

Jones's reign began in 2002, when his Quarter Horses earned more than $2.6 million, and he has surpassed that mark each year. In 2008, his horses earned nearly $7 million, setting the record for annual earnings by a trainer. His total earnings of $47 million are second only to 12-time champion trainer Blane Schvaneveldt's $54.5 million.

Jones won 23 stakes among his 230 wins in 2008 and he is poised to start his 2009 campaign with a Grade 1 score in the Charger Bar.

Strength in Numbers and Blazin Fire are both Grade 1 winners, and they were in a run-off for the 2007 champion aged mare title, with Blazin Fire taking the award.

Strength in Numbers is in peak form for her second start off a 13-month layoff in the Charger Bar. Jones started her comeback in the Grade 2 Las Damas Handicap for fillies and mares and she responded with an eye-catching one-length victory in a quick 19.42 seconds for the 400 yards, the same distance as the Charger Bar.

Before her layoff, she earned her championship consideration when she won the 2007 Grade 1 Los Alamitos Championship against males at 440 yards. She made a late run to win by a nose.

Blazin Fire prevailed in the 2007 champion aged mare balloting after racing to four wins from six starts, with a Grade 1 win in the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship at Los Alamitos.

Her form declined in 2008, when she won only one of five starts, but that win came in the Grade 3 Merial California Distaff Challenge. She comes off a third-place run behind Strength in Numbers in the Las Damas.

Set to challenge the Jones-trained pair are My Lady First, third in two Grade 1 derbies; What a Performance, winner of the 2007 Charger Bar; and Just Dash, a troubled fifth in the Las Damas.

Lethal Delight faces N.M.-breds

Lethal Delight, a two-time Grade 1 runner-up against open company, brings fastest-qualifier honors into the $333,940 Shue Fly Stakes for New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds on Saturday at Sunland Park.

Lethal Delight was second in the Grade 1 Dash for Cash Futurity at Lone Star Park and then second behind championship contender Brenda Beautiful in the Grade 1 Southwest Juvenile Championship when Brenda Beautiful set the Zia Park 440-yard track record.

The Blane Wood-trained Lethal Delight then dominated the Shue Fly trials when she won her trial by 4 1/2 lengths in 19.023 seconds, the quickest time by the equivalent of nearly two lengths.

Trainer Fred Danley sends out four horses to challenge Lethal Delight. Second-fastest qualifier BP Shes Southern won the Senorita Futurity, Cowboy Got Game comes off two wins, Rabbit Revival won the New Mexico Classic Futurity, and DRH Jamin Miracle won the Senor Futurity.