04/09/2008 12:00AM

Jonesboro skips a Grade 2 to head Fifth Season


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Jonesboro is well spotted Friday in the $100,000 Fifth Season at Oaklawn Park. A multiple Grade 3 winner with nearly $700,000 earned, he had been under consideration for last weekend's Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap, but after four Grade 1 winners pulled into town for the race, his owner, Mike Langford, and his trainer, Randy Morse, decided to instead target the Fifth Season.

"Mike and I talked about it, and it just kind of made more sense," said Morse. "Why run in a race when you're going to be maybe 10-1, when there's a race six days later you can be

2-1 or less?"

Jonesboro will go favored in the Fifth Season. The 1 1/16-mile race for 4-year-olds and up is one of 11 stakes being run over the final week of the meet as part of the Racing Festival of the South. It will share a card with the $50,000 Prima Donna, led by Palanka City.

Jonesboro will take on seven others in the Fifth Season, among his rivals Spotsgone, the winner of the $100,000 Essex in his last start Feb. 9; Richland Creek, who was a gutsy optional claiming winner here March 26; and the Grade 2-placed Prom Shoes.

But the horse to beat is Jonesboro, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 last out for his sharp, 2 1/4-length win in the Grade 3 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap on March 8.

Jonesboro led throughout, but he has been effective from off the pace and might get some speed to track Friday courtesy of Richland Creek, who drew the rail; Lovango, who stretches out after sprinting; and Spotsgone, who wired the field in the Essex.

"He's got natural speed, but everybody thinks he has to be in front, and that's not the case," Morse said of Jonesboro. "He's pretty much 'Do with him what you want.' It just seems like he always gets in a lot of races where there's not much pace, and naturally, where there's not, you want to take advantage of it."

Calvin Borel has the mount on Jonesboro.

Richland Creek got the nod for the Fifth Season after he fought off a stretch bid from Menacing to win a $75,000 optional claimer in determined fashion on March 26.

"He's won three at the meet now," said D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Richland Creek. "We said if he'd step up and win that one, we'd probably go to bigger and better things."

Clinton Potts will ride Richland Creek.