02/09/2006 1:00AM

Jonesboro has upset potential

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Evangeline Downs
Premier Dance, winner of five consecutive stakes last year, could make his 3-year-old debut in the six-furlong Mountain Valley on Feb. 25.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Jonesboro might be the sleeper in the Grade 3, $100,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. Perfect in two starts over the local track, he was a sharp winner off an eight-month layoff last out in Louisiana and will be stretching back out to his preferred trip, two turns, for the 1 1/16-mile Essex.

"I know he's a nice horse," said Randy Morse, who trains Jonesboro for Michael Langford. "How good? We'll let him show us. So far, he's doing really, really well."

Jonesboro won his maiden in his sixth career start, powering to an 8 3/4-length victory going a mile at Oaklawn last January. One start later, he captured the $75,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the Arkansas Derby undercard.

came out of the race with a fractured right front cannon bone, and two screws were inserted to stabilize the injury in a surgery performed at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. The screws have since been removed, and Jonesboro returned to action on Jan. 7.

Morse had him right on for his return, as Jonesboro closed with determination to win a six-furlong optional claiming race by a neck at the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs.

"I didn't know if he'd run short," said Morse. "Luckily, he got up."

Jonesboro has since been training at Oaklawn, and in his final prep for Saturday he drilled a bullet five furlongs in 1:01.20 under jockey Calvin Borel on Feb. 4.

"He couldn't be doing any better," said Morse. "He's always shown a lot of talent from day one, but he didn't really know what he was doing. He's matured a lot."

Jonesboro is a 4-year-old with a strong pedigree. He is the lone stakes winner produced by Mom's Command, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1985. Jonesboro's sire is Sefapiano, a son of Fappiano and Sefa's Beauty, a millionaire who won the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn in 1985.

Jonesboro drew post 3 for the Essex. He has natural speed, and could get a stalking trip.

"You can put him about where you want him," said Morse. "He's pretty manageable."

A career Beyer for Steppenwolfer

Trainer Dan Peitz said Steppenwolfer came out of his one-mile allowance win on Feb. 3 in good order and is now being pointed for the $250,000 Southwest Stakes at one mile on Feb. 20. He earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 93 in his allowance win.

Steppenwolfer is now 3 for 4 on dirt, with all of his wins coming from well off the pace. In the allowance, he trailed early, launched a strong rally on the final turn, and rolled home by 4 1/2 lengths. He covered the distance over a track rated good in 1:40.42, and was ridden by Robby Albarado.

"He did it the right way," said Peitz. "It was another step forward."

Steppenwolfer is a son of Aptitude who races for Robert and Lawana Low.

Meet-best mile time for Music School

Music School returned from a seven-month layoff Feb. 5 to run the fastest time for a mile at the meet when he covered the distance in 1:39.04. The race, his first start around two turns, earned Music School an 89 Beyer.

Music School, who was ridden by Albarado, is closely related to 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft. He is now 2 for 2 after his entry-level allowance win, and could make his stakes debut next month in the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel on March 18, said his trainer, Neil Howard.

Premier Dance to Mountain Valley?

Premier Dance, who won five consecutive stakes last year as a 2-year-old, could make his next start in the $50,000 Mountain Valley at six furlongs here on Feb. 25, said his trainer, Cody Autrey.

Premier Dance's win streak extended from the $75,000 Middleground Breeders' Cup at Lone Star Park in July to the $82,000 Eddy County at Zia Park in November. The skein ended when he ran into Lawyer Ron in the $100,000 Diamond Jo at Evangeline Downs on Dec. 31.

Premier Dance finished third in that one-mile race and has since been freshened. He has had two works since then, his latest a five-furlong breeze in 59.60 seconds at his Louisiana Downs base on Wednesday.