12/22/2009 1:00AM

Jones seeks strong finish to record year


Trainer Paul Jones has been on a Grade 1-winning tear all season long and on Saturday will attempt to close out his record-setting year with a win in the Grade 1, $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park. Jones will send out Noconi in the 400-yard race, which also drew three-time world record holder First Moonflash and recent Grade 1 Texas Classic Derby winner Stolis Winner.

"We've got our work cut out for us," Jones said. "It's not going to be an easy race."

The field is deep, but Jones said he is pleased with how Noconi, a 3-year-old champion in 2008, is coming up to the Championship. The horse has won three graded races from five starts this year, and in his most recent out was second by a neck in the Grade 1 Distance Championship at Zia Park on Dec. 6.

"This will probably be his last race for a while,"Jones said. "He'll get a little break after this. Hopefully, we'll get a good one out of him."

Noconi drew post 6 in a field of eight and will be ridden by Cody Jensen in the final Grade 1 of the year for Quarter Horses.

"I think we got a good post," Jones said. "I'm happy with the draw."

Jones became Quarter Horse racing's all-time leading trainer in earnings last week, with his stable having amassed $55,389,974 in purses through Monday, according to the American Quarter Horse Association. The previous record had been held by Blane Schvaneveldt, who through Monday had lifetime stable earnings of $55,077,209.

This year, Jones has won the most prestigious race for Quarter Horses, the Grade 1, $1.9 million All American Futurity, and the richest, the Grade 1, Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. He leads all trainers in wins and broke his 2008 record for season earnings by a trainer, with $7.3 million through Monday.

First Moonflash is defending his title in the Championship off a pair of restricted Grade 1 wins. He captured the New Mexico Cup Classic at Zia on Nov. 8, then came back in his most recent start and won the Jess Burner Memorial at Sunland on Dec. 12. Alejandro Medellin has the mount for trainer Andres Gonzalez.