02/18/2003 1:00AM

Red-hot Jones prepares to unleash 'A' team


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - This is the kind of meet Larry Jones is having at Oaklawn Park: He has the highest win percentage among the top 10 trainers and hasn't even started the two best horses in his barn, Ruby's Reception and Don't Countess Out.

Ruby's Reception, a 7 3/4-length winner of the $100,000 Debutante at Ellis Park in August, worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:02.20 on Saturday in preparation for her 3-year-old debut, which is scheduled to come in the $75,000 Honeybee at 1 1/16 miles March 8.

Her goal at the meet is the Grade 2, $200,000 Fantasy on April 11.

Ruby's Reception won 3 of 7 starts last year and $209,230. Following the Debutante, she finished a close second in the Grade 2 Alcibiades, and from there closed out her season with a 10th-place finish to champion Storm Flag Flying in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 26.

"She came out of it with a wrenched ankle," said Jones. "It was basically a bad sprain. She's fine now, and should not be compromised at all."

The time away from the races has actually benefited Ruby's Reception.

"She's grown a little bit over the winter," said Jones. "[Jockey] Terry [Thompson] said she felt much stronger than she did last year."

Don't Countess Out is another stakes winner on the comeback trail for Jones, who has returned to Oaklawn after a one-year absence. This meet, he has won five races from 13 starters for a 38 percent win rate, which places him in a three-way tie for second place in the standings behind leader Cole Norman.

Don't Countess Out, a winner of $214,445, grabbed a quarter in her last start, when she finished third to Emily Ring in the $50,000 Holiday Inaugural at Turfway Park on Dec. 7. Before that race, she finished second in the Grade 3 Thoroughbred Club of America.

"She's coming back, and should start her works next week," said Jones. "Hopefully, we will get a race in her down here."

Besides his two proven fillies, Jones has a couple of up-and-comers: Elusive Sara and P.K.'s Gal, both of whom won their maidens this meet.

"I think they're stakes-caliber fillies," said Jones, adding that a goal for Elusive Sara is the $75,000 Instant Racing Breeders' Cup for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on April 12.

Jones has upgraded his stable since the last time he was at Oaklawn in 2001. "I've got a little better horses than before," he said. "We were able to go to the sales and purchase a little better horse than we've ever been able to buy before."

Mr Patsy Kelly looks tough in feature

Norman, who won with five consecutive starters on Sunday and Monday, has a leading contender in the feature Thursday with Mr Patsy Kelly, who is making his second start back from a three-month layoff. He returns in a two-other-than allowance that drew a field of seven. The purse is $32,000.

Mr Patsy Kelly finished third in his comeback race Jan. 31. The second-place finisher in that race, Quick Claim, has returned to win. Mr Patsy Kelly, a half-brother to stakes winner Ornate, will be ridden by Jamie Theriot, who is tied atop the standings with Thompson.

* Red n'Gold, who successfully defended her title in the $50,000 Pippin on Saturday, came out of the race in good order and will make her next start in the Grade 3, $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup on March 15, said trainer Bob Holthus.

* Trainer John Veitch's first starter at the meet will be on Thursday in the eighth, a maiden special weight race, with Jenkins' Ferry.

* Crafty Shaw is the 120-pound highweight for the Grade 3, $100,000 Essex Handicap on Saturday.

* Attendance on Monday was a meet-high 23,253.