05/10/2010 11:00PM

Jones happy to escape the spotlight


For the first time in four years, Larry Jones and his wife, Cindy, were several hundred miles away from Louisville when the Kentucky Derby was run. Watching the race on television from their temporary home in Delaware was just fine for them.

"It was the best Kentucky Derby I've had out of the last three," Larry Jones said Tuesday morning at Delaware Park, where he was getting on about eight or nine horses for Cindy, the new head trainer of the stable. "Hard Spun [second in 2007] was a pretty good Derby, but the other two kind of sucked."

In 2008, Jones finished second in the Derby with the filly Eight Belles, who suffered fatal injuries to her ankles while galloping out. Last year, Jones sent out Friesan Fire to an 18th-place finish as the favorite in the 19-horse field.

After missing the spotlight in Kentucky, the Joneses will be somewhat back in it this week in Baltimore when they run two horses at Pimlico. On Friday, Cindy Jones will saddle No Such Word in the $175,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. On Saturday, she will send out last year's Black-Eyed Susan winner, Payton d'Oro, in the $100,000 Gallorette Stakes on turf.

Larry Jones, now an assistant trainer and exercise rider, was to accompany the two horses to Pimlico on Wednesday and will gallop them Thursday. He will be at Pimlico on Friday when No Such Word runs, but will be back at Delaware on Saturday to saddle a horse for his wife in a juvenile stakes.

"I'm looking forward to staying away from that," Jones said of the hullabaloo of Preakness Day.

Both Cindy and Larry Jones are looking forward to running both of their horses at Pimlico. No Such Word won the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn on March 13, but finished third behind Blind Luck in the Grade 2 Fantasy in which there was a pedestrian pace and a four-horse field. On Friday, there looks to be significantly more pace in the nine-horse field.

"It should be a lot better for us this trip than last trip," Cindy Jones said.

Payton d'Oro is four-time stakes winner on dirt and has never raced on turf in her 14 starts.

"The owners wanted to try her on the grass, so we'll give it a try," Jones said. "She's got the breeding for it."

Cindy Jones has 37 racehorses stabled at Delaware Park and 12 more at a nearby training center in Maryland.

Summer Bird targets summer campaign

Though a temperature kept him in his stall Tuesday morning, reigning 3-year-old champion Summer Bird has been galloping regularly at Delaware Park. Trainer Tim Ritchey is hoping to breeze the colt by the end of the month and hopes to get to the races at the end of June or early July.

"Hopefully, he'll have a huge year," Ritchey said. "The main objective is to get him to the Breeders' Cup Classic in good shape."

Ritchey believes Summer Bird is the type of horse that can have a big 4-year-old season.

"He's a 3-year-old who showed vast improvement as the year went on," Ritchey said. "He's an absolute route horse, and those are the kind of horses that usually go forward as 4-year-olds. They get better as they get older."

Ritchey took over the training of Summer Bird in February, after owners K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman moved the horse from trainer Tim Ice, about three weeks after the horse was honored with the Eclipse Award as the 3-year-old champion of 2009. At the time, Summer Bird was rehabbing from a condylar fracture.

Ritchey said he would love to make the Whitney and Woodward at Saratoga this summer. Summer Bird won the Travers at the Spa last year.

"Both are on our schedule," Ritchey said.

Lukas eyes sixth Preakness win

It has been 25 years since D. Wayne Lukas won the Preakness with Tank's Prospect, a colt who finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby two weeks beforehand. Tank's Prospect nailed favored Chief's Crown on the wire in the 1985 Preakness, giving jockey Pat Day his first of nine triumphs in a Triple Crown event.

Lukas isn't about to predict that Dublin - who ran seventh in the 2010 Derby - will rebound similarly Saturday to give the Hall of Fame trainer his sixth Preakness victory, but "we wouldn't be running if we didn't think we couldn't win," he said.

"My horse came out of the Derby better than he's ever been," Lukas said.

Dublin was ridden by Terry Thompson in the Derby and is being replaced Saturday by Garrett Gomez, the Eclipse Award-winning jockey of 2007 and 2008 and still among the most sought-after jockeys in North America. Gomez came open when trainer Bob Baffert opted to replace him with Martin Garcia aboard Lookin At Lucky.

Lukas likened the availability of Gomez to quarterback Peyton Manning being without a football team to play for.

"When somebody like Gomez is open, you have to go for him," Lukas said.

Dublin is owned by Robert Baker and William Mack, who were the principal owners in Proud Citizen, second in the Derby and third in the Preakness in 2002.

Linked double, jockey challenge wager

There will be a special daily-double wager offered on Friday's Black Eyed-Susan Stakes and Saturday's Preakness Stakes. The minimum wager is $2.

On Friday, fans can wager on a jockey challenge featuring eight riders. Win and exacta wagering ($2 minimum on both) will be available. The rider who accumulates the most points over four races (3rd, 5th, 7th, and 10th) will be declared the winner. A rider gets 12 points for a win, 6 points for second, 4 points for third, and 3 points for fourth.

The riders participating in the challenge include Javier Castellano, Kent Desormeaux, Ramon Dominguez, Garrett Gomez, Julien Leparoux, Anna Napravnik, Jeremy Rose, and John Velazquez.

On Saturday, there will be an early pick-four wager (races 5-8) with a guaranteed pool of $250,000. There will be a late pick four (races 9-12) ending with the Preakness that has a guaranteed pool of $1 million.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee