09/23/2015 12:20PM

Jones: Lovely Maria poised for improvement

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Barbara D. Livingston
Lovely Maria won the Kentucky Oaks in May, but has finished fifth and sixth in her two starts since.

I’m a Chatterbox earned a start in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff last weekend by winning the Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx Racing. Her trainer, Larry Jones, plans to give his other top 3-year-old filly, Lovely Maria, a chance to join her.

Last spring, Lovely Maria won back-to-back Grade 1 races, the Ashland and Kentucky Oaks. She has come up short in two starts since, finishing fifth in the Delaware Oaks and sixth in the Grade 1 Alabama. But Jones is happy with the way she is training and expects improvement when she runs against older rivals in the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 4.

Jones freshened Lovely Maria after the Kentucky Oaks and was using the Delaware Oaks as a way to get to the Alabama. A number of horses in his Delaware Park stable came down with a minor illness in early summer, and it is possible that the lingering effects compromised Lovely Maria’s performance.

The top two finishers from the Delaware Oaks, Calamity Kate and Peace and War, came back to finish second and third behind I’m a Chatterbox in the $1 million Cotillion.

Lovely Maria raced in contention to upper stretch of the Alabama before weakening. Jones said he thinks the 1 1/4 miles of the Alabama might be beyond Lovely Maria’s capability.

“She can go a mile and an eighth, but that may be about it,” Jones said. “A mile and a quarter looks a little too far for her. She’s by Majesticperfection, so we might be lucky she can go that far.”

Besides Lovely Maria, Majesticperfection’s best offspring are Hebbronville and Majestic Affair, both of whom are sprinters. Majesticperfection stands at the Airdrie Stud of Brereton Jones, the owner of Lovely Maria.

The last three weeks, Lovely Maria has turned in bullet workouts at Delaware Park.