02/02/2010 1:00AM

Jonesboro targets King Cotton


Jonesboro has been made the 120-pound highweight for the $100,000 Essex Handicap here on Saturday, but he won't be making his fourth appearance in the 1 1/16-mile race. Instead, he will be sprinting here Friday in the $50,000 King Cotton.

Jonesboro was to run in the King Cotton, at six furlongs, last Saturday. But a winter storm led to the cancellation of three straight days of racing at Oaklawn, from Friday through Sunday, and the race was rescheduled for Friday.

The situation made for two fitting stakes options for Jonesboro. The horse is a stakes winner at one turn, but has made the bulk of his $1.4 million in earnings around two, including a win in the Essex in 2007.

"I'm pretty sure we're going to run in the King Cotton," said Randy Morse, who trains Jonesboro. "I was kind of playing it by ear, but when we missed this last few days of training, he would have needed to breeze again to be able to go long.

"The track has been so deep and tiring, I just don't want to run him a route off a layoff like that."

Jonesboro last raced in November, finishing eighth as the highweight in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs. He was then pointed for the $125,000 Delta Mile, a race he has won twice, but was scratched from the Dec. 4 race because of a wet track. Jonesboro has been working at Oaklawn, but has had his training interrupted by two cold snaps, one costing horsemen five days of training in mid-January.

Win Willy might go in Essex

Win Willy has trained so strongly following an allowance win at Oaklawn on Jan. 21 that he is being considered for a start in the Essex, said trainer Mac Robertson. The original plan was to skip the race and await the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback here March 6.

But if Win Willy is strong again Thursday morning, when the Essex will be drawn, he will be entered in the race. For the recent allowance score, Win Willy earned a 100 Beyer.