07/26/2013 1:22PM

Kentucky notes: 'Cowboy' Jones still looking for win in seventh decade


When R.A. “Cowboy” Jones climbed aboard the favorite in the second race Tuesday at Fairmount Park in southern Illinois, he sent certain folks scurrying to see if he was on the threshold of becoming the oldest Thoroughbred jockey ever to win a race in the United States.

Alas, Jones finished second aboard My Kentucky Breeze, the even-money favorite, and the research was moot for the time being. But Jones remains determined to win at least one more race and thus become the only U.S. jockey known to have won a race in seven different decades. Born in December 1942, he began his riding career in 1959 at the old Park Jefferson in South Dakota and has won races from the 1950s through the 2000s. He has gone winless with his 44 mounts since 2010 and is winless in 63 rides since his last triumph in September 2004 at Turfway Park.

“I’ve never heard of any jockey older than 70 winning a race,” Jones said recently by phone from his hometown track, Ellis Park in western Kentucky. “Maybe there has been, but I don’t think so.”

The unofficial versions of the oldest winning jockeys are Frank Amonte Sr., who won a race at the Northampton Fair in Massachusetts in September 2005 at either 69 or 70 (he was born in 1935), and Willie Clark, the Charles Town icon who won a race in 1991 at 69. Amonte actually tried to ride last year at age 76 at Suffolk Downs, but was not permitted to do so by track management. Clark died in 2006.

A 1990 story about Clark by Gary Smith in Sports Illustrated referred to a jockey named Levi Burlingame, who was still riding in Kansas in 1932 at age 80. But those tracks were not sanctioned, and it seems doubtful that anyone older than 70 has won a race at a sanctioned track in more modern times.

Jones continues to exercise horses on a regular basis at Ellis and remains fit and willing to ride races. He said he badly wants to become known as a jockey who won a race in seven different decades, a feat that would be incredibly difficult for anyone to ever match.

“If I win one more, history will be made,” he said. “Even if I win one, I’m probably going to just keep hunting for a fast horse that I can ride.”

Ellis, which runs through Sept. 2, seems the track where he logically could win again – and where such an accomplishment would be wildly received. Jones is a living legend there, and some of the locally based horsemen are among his best friends.

Through the first 10 days at Ellis, however, Jones had ridden just one race at Ellis, finishing far back on a first-time starter for trainer Cheryl Brown on opening day, July 4. My Kentucky Breeze is trained by Steve Fridley, who is based at Fairmount but also ventures occasionally into Kentucky, Indiana, and Chicago. Jones had no scheduled mounts this weekend at Ellis.

“I keep kidding some of these trainers,” he said. “I tell them to put me on just one winner.”

Groupie Doll targeting Masters

Groupie Doll had her fifth workout since returning from a break of several months when breezing five furlongs in 59.60 seconds early Friday over a fast Churchill track.

Owner-trainer Buff Bradley said he definitely is leaning toward having Groupie Doll, the 2012 female sprint champion, return to action in the Sept. 9 Presque Isle Downs Masters and has ruled out the Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga two weeks earlier.

Calvin Borel was up for the Friday work, although Rajiv Maragh keeps the mount on 5-year-old Groupie Doll.

Next generation takes over

The Hyland family torch is being passed from one generation to the next at the Trackside training center in Louisville, where horses have started to run in the name of Nathan Hyland, 28, the son of longtime trainer Angel Hyland.

A 3-year-old filly named Amy H was set to run Saturday at Ellis for Nathan Hyland, marking his third starter. Angel Hyland, 67, has trained for more than 30 years. He has won more than 500 races since 1981, with his best horse in recent years being Why Pretend, an earner of nearly $140,000.

“My dad basically has been training me to take over,” the younger Hyland said. “We’ve got six horses here. Hopefully, people will start seeing my name and I can gain their confidence and start building from there.”

Awesome Flower to Gardenia

Trainer Mike Maker said Awesome Flower will make her next start in the signature race of the Ellis meet, the Grade 3 Gardenia on Aug. 10. Awesome Flower, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, won the off-the-turf Lady Canterbury at Canterbury Park in Minnesota in her last start July 13.

Ellis racing officials say the field for the $100,000 Gardenia also could include Ice Cream Silence, Livi Makenzie, Yankee Union, Draw It, and perhaps several more. Nominations to the one-mile race will be released this week.

Churchill plans new seating area

Churchill Downs has filed plans with the city of Louisville for a seating expansion in the far grandstand area adjacent to where the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby is situated at the top of the stretch.

The new two-story seating area would be modernized to accommodate substantially more fans than currently can be done. Official plans have yet to be announced by Churchill Downs Inc. The company has expanded or remodeled numerous other areas of its flagship facility in recent times.

◗ The fifth race, a $33,500 turf allowance, serves as the nominal feature on a nine-race Sunday card at Ellis. First post is 12:50 p.m. Central. After Sunday, the track goes dark for four days before another three-day weekend resumes Friday.