04/08/2009 11:00PM

Jones looks tough in meet's final three stakes


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Larry Jones could become the second trainer to sweep the trio of 3-year-old stakes that will close out the Oaklawn Park meet Saturday. He has the favorite for the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby in Old Fashioned, the favorite for the $75,000 Instant Racing in Payton d'Oro, and one of the top choices for the $75,000 Northern Spur in It Happened Again.

The only trainer to have won all three stakes in the same year since the Instant Racing - originally named the Althea - was created in 1996 is Steve Asmussen, who won them with Curlin, Cream Only, and Takedown in 2007.

It Happened Again will be looking to recapture his best form in the Northern Spur, which will be run at a mile. He enters off a 10th-place finish in the Grade 3 Risen Star at Fair Grounds on Feb. 7. Before that, It Happened Again won the $50,000 Triple Sec at Delta Downs with a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

"We feel like he's a very good horse," Jones said. "He just did not appear to like the Fair Grounds. If you look, both of his races at Fair Grounds were not him, and he never really worked fast there. He was just fighting the track.

"Now that we've moved him here, his works have gone back to being very quick. Hopefully, he just wasn't the right horse for that course and he'll show us what he's really made of here."

Leading rider Terry Thompson has the mount on It Happened Again, a son of Proud Citizen who races for Brereton Jones.

Kick On is another looking for his best form. A two-time route stakes winner last year at 2, he was off the board in the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn on Feb. 16. Kick On was to found to have entrapped his epiglottis during the race, which would have compromised his breathing. He has since turned in some strong works and was a dappled picture of health galloping here Wednesday. Kick On will break from post 9 in the field of 13.

"He's not going to be very far off the pace," said Joe Petalino, who trains Kick On.

Others in the field include Uno Mas, who was third in the Risen Star; Good Sermon, who has won his maiden and an allowance in his last two starts; and Marquee Event, who is a half-brother to last year's Arkansas Derby winner, Gayego.

'Payton' out to add to sire's success

It's been a good meet to be a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro. Rachel Alexandra took down the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy last weekend and the $50,000 Martha Washington in February. And another daughter, She's Our Annie, put up a triple-digit Beyer when winning last month's $50,000 Prima Donna. The next in line to become an Oaklawn stakes winner this meet could be Payton d'Oro, the probable favorite for the Instant Racing.

"We feel like we've got the right breeding for this race," quipped Jones, who trains Payton d'Oro for John Ferris and Mike Pressley.

The Instant Racing is for 3-year-old fillies at a mile. Among the other starters are stakes winners Peach Brew and Belong Again. But neither is as accomplished at the distance as Payton d'Oro, who has won one-mile races in her last two starts. The first was a maiden special weight in her fourth start Jan. 30, the other a first-level allowance in a strong time of 1:38.60 in her last start March 1.

"We think now that we've got her stretched out around two turns and have just let her mature, we feel like she's doing real good," Jones said. "She's beaten older fillies here, so that gives us a lot of confidence in her."

Thompson has the mount on Payton d'Oro.

* The infield will be open Saturday.