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WORKOUT OF THE WEEK
Just Jenda tuned up for a possible start in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom with a flashy five-furlong move Monday morning at Oaklawn. She went the distance in 58.80 seconds, with clockers catching her galloping out six furlongs in 1:12. If she goes in the Apple Blossom, a 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares, she is expected to meet undefeated champion Zenyatta.
"The work was beautiful," said Cindy Jones, who co-owns and trains Just Jenda. "The Apple Blossom is a consideration. We've got to see who goes in it. We know we're running for second, and a mile and an eighth is not her best distance. A mile and a sixteenth is pushing it, and so it just depends on who goes. If we have to run hard, hard, hard to get third or fourth, then no, it's not a consideration. She's doing awfully good right now, but everybody knows Zenyatta is unbeatable."
An alternative could be to run Just Jenda in the Grade 2, $400,000 La Troienne at Churchill Downs on April 30, Jones said.
The Apple Blossom is one of the main events in Oaklawn's annual Racing Festival of the South. It will be held Friday, April 9. The festival will feature nine stakes worth at least $2.8 million. The races are spread out over the final week of the meet, with the season-ending Arkansas Derby set for April 10.
Just Jenda has run once this year. A multiple Grade 3 winner who has earned $480,680, she finished fourth in , the local prep for the Apple Blossom, on March 6. The race, which has become a key one with winner Freedom Star coming back to take the $100,000 Harry Henson at Sunland and third-place finisher Afleet Deceit an allowance at Oaklawn, was Just Jenda's first start since October, and she needed the out, Jones said.
"We had a short horse, and she still hung in for fourth and only got beat five lengths," Jones said.
The workout Monday, which came first set on a 50-degree morning, suggests she will take a big step forward. Just Jenda jumped into the drill and was strong throughout, with Oaklawn head clocker Jim Hamilton timing her through fractions of 11.80 seconds for the opening eighth-mile, 24 for the first quarter, 36 for three furlongs, and 47.40 for the half-mile. Jockey Terry Thompson was aboard for the move, which was the fastest of 13 at the distance Monday.
"Every time she's had a bullet work, she runs a heck of a race," Jones said. "When she doesn't, she doesn't win."
Jones also has Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan winner Payton d'Oro under consideration for the Apple Blossom. Her other option would be the $100,000 Bayakoa, a 1 1/16-mile race here Wednesday, that also could draw multiple stakes winner Euphony.
Oaklawn was to draw the Bayakoa field Friday. Entries for the Apple Blossom are Tuesday.
TIME IS NOW FOR JONESBORO
It was about this time a year ago that Jonesboro's season began to kick into high gear. And judging from his five-furlong work here Monday, it looks like he's coming to hand just in time for Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap. Jonesboro was scratched out of an allowance last week in favor of the stakes start, trainer Randy Morse said.
An 8-year-old who has earned more than $1.4 million for owner Mike Langford, Jonesboro worked after the renovation break. He breezed five furlongs in 1:00, the second-fastest move at the distance behind Just Jenda. Clockers carried him galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.60.
"He galloped out better than he has all winter," Morse said. "He's doing good. I think when horses get older like this, it might take them a little longer to really get racing fit. He's older and smarter. He's going to kind of do things at his own pace now."
Jonesboro has run twice this year, finishing fourth in in March.
"We did this last year," Morse said. "He ran two just subpar races, then came back in the Oaklawn Handicap and ran third."
From there, Jonesboro turned in three of the best races of his career. He won the Grade 3 Texas Mile in April and then came back a month later and missed by a head in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap. Jonesboro then shipped to Prairie Meadows and won with a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 109.
Morse said it was Jonesboro's best year, and plans are to follow the same route of races this year. After the Oaklawn meet, Jonesboro will be based at Lone Star.
TRIPLE CROWN ALUM WORKS
Flying Private worked here Monday for an intended start in the $100,000 Fifth Season, trainer, D. Wayne Lukas said. Flying Private went five furlongs in 1:02 in company and, after breaking off with his workmate, was content to let that one go down the backside. Flying Private went after his company in the stretch, raced on even terms with him until the wire was in sight, and then surged to win the work. Clockers carried him galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.60.
Flying Private was an allowance winner in February in his first start since the Belmont Stakes. He also ran in last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The Fifth Season will be run Thursday.
* Early probables for the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on Friday, April 9, include Chief of Affairs, Custom for Carlos, Ez Dreamer, Native Ruler, Riley Tucker, and Silver City.
HORSES TO WATCH
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Last race: March 26, 9th
Finish: 1st by 3/4
He looked strong in the lane when winning a second-level allowance sprint in what was his first start since May. He was with the pace and then overpowered a rival late to cover six furlongs in 1:10. His multiple stakes-winning dam Flashy Four is a half-sister to the Grade 2-winning sprinter Good and Tough.
Trainer: Michael Stidham
Last race: March 28, 9th
Finish: 1st by 10
He is developing into a 3-year-old sprinter of note. He picked up his fourth stakes win at six furlongs in the $50,000 Rainbow, which was restricted to Arkansas-breds. Comedero won the race in hand, one start after running a good field of open-company rivals off their feet in the $50,000 Mountain Valley, also at Oaklawn. For that effort in the Mountain Valley, he earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 96. Comedero also is a stakes winner at Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs.
Trainer: Tim Ritchey
Last race: March 27, 8th
Finish: 5th by 8
He made his debut in a one-mile maiden special weight and was sent to post as the favorite over a field that included a Southern California shipper for trainer Bob Baffert. This one settled off the pace nicely but was at a tactical disadvantage as the more experienced Baffert horse controlled the race wire to wire. Alex's Vision is a Pennsylvania-bred son of Afleet Alex, a champion trained by Ritchey. His dam is Urban Dancer, a four-time stakes winner who ran out $300,935.