06/28/2009 12:00AM

Jonesboro wins first Grade 2 in Cornhusker


Jonesboro's 7-year-old surge has not subsided. In the 40th start of his career, Jonesboro ran as well as he ever has, and won for the first time in six tries at 1 1/8 miles, capturing the by 1 3/4 lengths over pacesetting Shadowbdancing.

Trained by Randy Morse for owner Michael Langford, Jonesboro won for the 14th time, and the $180,000 winner's share of the purse boosted his career earnings over $1.5 million, which is not bad for a son of $2,000 stud Sefapiano. Langford paid $27,000 for Jonesboro at auction way back in 2003. He is the 11th of 14 foals produced by the champion racemare Mom's Command, and by far the most successful of them.

For years, Jonesboro ($12.60) has been a fixture in minor to mid-major two-turn stakes races in the Midwest, racing at 12 different venues as far north as Hawthorne in Chicago, as far south as Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

For whatever reason, Jonesboro has never been quite as good as he is right now. Jonesboro had won three Grade 3 races, but never a Grade 2 until Saturday night. Proven at 1 1/16 miles, Jonesboro also had won sprint stakes, and 1 1/8 miles seemed to exceed his ideal distance range. But after a sixth and a third to start his 2009 campaign, Jonesboro's form leapt forward with a win in the Texas Mile, and a close second to Oaklawn Handicap winner Itsabird in the May 25 Lone Star Park Handicap.

Jonesboro built on that performance Saturday - with a little help from the wheel of fortune. A couple of potential pace players, Stonehouse and Red Hot N Gold, basically got wiped out when things got very tight into the first turn of the Cornhusker. Breaking from post 8, Jonesboro and jockey Cliff Berry stayed clear of the fray, but even-money favorite My Pal Charlie was caught in tight quarters, while Victory Pete lurched outward, impeding Red Hot N Gold and, even more so, Wayzata Bay.

That left Shadowbdancing on a clear lead through a moderate pace, 47.48 seconds to the half-mile. Just in behind Shadowbdancing was Jonesboro, who was asked by jockey Cliff Berry to go after the leader at the top of the stretch. Jonesboro took over in the final furlong, drove clear in deep stretch, and won going away, timed in 1:48.01 for 1 1/8 miles. Shadowbdancing was clearly second-best, finishing six lengths in front of My Pal Charlie, who had still another eventful journey.

Berry won his second Iowa Festival of Racing stakes in a row, having captured the Iowa Distaff on Euphony about a half-hour earlier.

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