03/07/2009 1:00AM

Jonesboro sharp for title defense


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Jonesboro is out to defend his title in the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park on Saturday and indicated he is razor sharp for the task by drilling five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.20 here in his final prep Monday.

"His last breeze was just fabulous," said Randy Morse, who trains Jonesboro for Michael Langford.

Jonesboro is one of seven older horses in the Razorback, a 1 1/16-mile race that serves as a stepping-stone to the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 4. He is co-highweighted at 117 pounds along with Prom Shoes, who won last month's $100,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn.

Jonesboro's connections passed on that race after he did not work to satisfaction in his final prep, coming back with tender feet. Things were different the other morning, when Jonesboro's breeze ranked as the fastest of 20 at the distance. The Razorback will be his first start since he finished second in an allowance prep for the Essex on Jan. 18.

"He's doing real good," Morse said. "I don't have any excuses for him."

Calvin Borel has the mount on Jonesboro, who drew post 2, just outside one of his main pace rivals, Spotsgone. Joe Johnson has the mount on Spotsgone, who was third in the same allowance as Jonesboro in January, then ran fifth in the Essex on Feb. 7.

"Spotsgone, I think he'll be a little better horse this time than he was last time," said Jinks Fires, who trains Spotsgone for Robert Yagos. "I think I ran him back a little bit too soon last time, and he wasn't quite back up to his race."

Spotsgone, in at 113 pounds, is one of two horses in the field for Fires. He also trains Prom Shoes, for Patricia Blass. The horse put in a big run when closing for a 1 1/4-length win in the Essex.

"He kicked in when he needed to at the end," Fires said. "He came out of the race real well, and we look for a big effort this time, too."

Chris Emigh has the mount on Prom Shoes, who owns the field's best last-race Beyer Speed Figure, a 98.

Catmantoo is a new player in the local handicap ranks following a $40,000 optional claiming win here Jan. 29. In his final prep, he worked a bullet five furlongs from the gate in 1:00.80 on Feb. 28.

"He's sitting on go," trainer Tim Ice said.