09/22/2008 11:00PM

Jones considering retirement, owners say

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Trainer Larry Jones has told his clients that he does not intend to take on any more horses and is considering retiring from training, two owners who have horses with the trainer said on Tuesday.

Rick Porter, who has approximately 35 horses in-training with Jones, and Brereton Jones, the owner of Airdrie Stud and leading 3-year-old filly Proud Spell, each said that the Delaware-based trainer told them in recent weeks that he was considering quitting, citing strains of operating a large stable and the pressure this year surrounding the death of the filly Eight Belles shortly after she finished second for the trainer in the Kentucky Derby.

However, both Porter and Brereton Jones said that the trainer will continue with the horses currently in his barn.

"He's a hands-on guy who loves horses, and I don't think he's having any fun right now," Porter said. "He's not getting any sleep. I think he's just doing so much that it's more than he ever wanted."

Larry Jones, reached on Tuesday afternoon, declined to comment on his long-term plans in a brief telephone conversation.

"As of right now, I'm still training horses, I'm still hauling horses, and that's all I have to say," Jones said.

Earlier in the day, a blog run by the former turf writer John Piesen quoted Jones as saying that he was quitting.

Brereton Jones called Larry Jones "one of the best men that god has put on this planet," and he said that the strain of Eight Belles's death and the criticism that accompanied it has put unnecessary pressure on the trainer. Several animal-rights groups and other opponents of racing used Eight Belles's death as a springboard to launch widespread criticism of both Jones and Eight Belles's jockey, Gabriel Saez.

"There was a lot of mean-spirited stuff that was said by people who don't know horses, don't know racing, and don't know Larry Jones," Brereton Jones said. "Larry Jones is a good guy. One of the best. And if you're a good guy, that hurts a lot more than if you're a bad guy, if you're guilty of what they were saying. But he wasn't."

Porter said that Jones told him he will continue to train all horses under his care depending on the stall space he is given at Fair Grounds Racecourse in New Orleans. Fair Grounds opens in late November. Larry Jones did not make his plans clear after that point, Porter said.

Porter said that his "good 2-year-olds" and other older horses are expected to ship with Jones to Fair Grounds. Porter's other horses will remain at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland for the winter, Porter said.

Brereton Jones said that all 10 horses he currently has with the trainer will remain under his care. When asked if he was looking for another trainer, Brereton Jones said: "I've got absolutely no reason to, except for the 2-year-olds I'll have coming off the farm next year."

One week ago, Jones was suspended for seven days by the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission after a horse he trained tested positive for clenbuterol, a prohibited race-day medication that is a bronchial dilator. Jones has appealed the suspension, claiming that he never administered the drug to the horse.

Last year, a horse trained by Jones was found to have had a sponge inserted in its nostrils. The culprit has not been identified, but Jones blamed the incident on a disgruntled stable employee.

"It's just been a really hard time for him," Porter said of the trainer. "He really cares about his horses, and he's having all this time finding really good stable help, and everything surrounding Eight Belles, it takes its toll. I already told him that I don't think he can stay retired. Maybe he'll be back after a breather. If he gets a breather, maybe he'll change his mind."