08/06/2008 11:00PM

Jonesboro strong on steep drop


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As class drops go, the one Jonesboro takes Saturday is as significant as they come. After finishing sixth behind reigning Horse of the Year Curlin in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs June 14, he moves in with easier competition to race in the $50,000 Governor's Handicap at Ellis Park.

It is safe to say there are no horses of the caliber in the Curlin in the Governor's Handicap, although Jonesboro is matched against a solid group of stakes opponents, led by 2007 Ohio Derby winner Delightful Kiss and Don Bernhardt runner-up Officer Rocket.

Besides facing easier rivals, there are other factors that point to a strong the performance by Jonesboro in the Governor's Handicap, not the least of which is the fact that there is only a moderate amount of speed in the field to challenge the front-running Jonesboro.

Although capable of winning from just off the pace, Jonesboro is at his best when able to make the front in the early stages, as he did in winning the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap in March at Oaklawn Park. He also won the Grade 3 Essex Handicap there wire to wire in 2007.

Jonesboro, a 6-year-old son of Sefapiano out of the late champion Mom's Command, is the leading money earner in the field, having made $708,575 in a 30-race career for owner Michael Langford.

Trainer Randy Morse has named Tracy Hebert to ride Jonesboro, who carries high weight of 120 pounds.

Finishing 2 1/2 lengths behind Jonesboro in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster was Delightful Kiss, who crossed the wire seventh, beaten 12 lengths. Subsequently shipped to Prairie Meadows, he finished sixth, beaten 9 1/2 lengths in the Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap.

A late-runner, he needs to return to his peak form from last year - when he won the Iowa Derby in addition to the Ohio Derby - to catch Jonesboro.

In contrast to Jonesboro and Delightful Kiss, Officer Rocket has the benefit of a start over the Ellis Park strip this meet. Racing July 19 in the Don Bernhardt Handicap, he stalked the pace in third and closed to finish second behind Bold Start in a fast 6 1/2-furlong clocking of 1:15.92.

Although he has raced primarily in sprints this year, he has won going the Governor's Handicap mile distance, having taken the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity at a mile in a dead heat in the slop at Arlington in September of 2006.

Longley, Sandburr, Itsallaboutthechase, and Save Big Money complete the seven-horse Governor's Handicap field.