03/13/2006 1:00AM

Jonesboro best if last not true


Randy Morse knows his trainer cliches, but when referring to Jonesboro's most recent race, he can't help reaching into the bag for an old standby.

"You'll hear trainers say this all the time, but I've never had a horse train that good and run that bad," Morse said of Jonesboro's distant eighth-place finish Feb. 11 in the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn.

had missed several months of action after an impressive three-length victory last April in the Northern Spur Breeders' Cup, but he had won his comeback race at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs, and was undefeated in two races at Oaklawn last year. But in the Essex, he just didn't show up.

"I have no idea what happened," said Morse. "It wasn't like he was there until the real running started and then got outrun. This horse threw a clunker one other time when I took him to New Orleans, so I don't know."

Morse still believes Jonesboro, who has raced only nine times, has vast talent, and he'll try to get the horse back on the right track in the 10th race Wednesday at Oaklawn. Jonesboro starts under the one-mile race's nonwinners-of-four allowance condition, but there also is a $50,000 claiming option that lets in six of the eight other horses.

Jonesboro looks like the best of them all - if he can rebound from the recent disappointment.

"I've been very high on this horse for a long time, but after the other day, you don't know what to think," Morse said. "I want to get an easy race in him. There's a couple in there that can run some, but he's showed a lot of ability, this horse has."

Chief among the other options is , who like Jonesboro, is a 4-year-old with three career wins. Just a Cat, from the barn of Don Combs, has run well in both his starts this meet, though he has only a fourth and a second to show for it. The fourth came when he charged late on a sloppy track and missed by three-quarters of a length at this one-mile trip; 15 days later, on Feb. 25, he ran second by a length to the talented Gouldings Green, a performance that would make Foolish Cat competitive with Jonesboro even if that horse gets back to his best.

And if Foolish Cat can contend, so might , who finished just a neck behind him in the Feb. 25 race, and looks like the speed in Wednesday's race.