12/30/2002 12:00AM

Violette, Motion know their horses

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Know your horse.

Jimmy Jones frequently said this is the best advice he ever received about training horses. He received it, of course, from an outstanding source. His father, Ben Jones, is widely regarded as the best horseman America ever produced.

Rick Violette knows his horse. Man From Wicklow, who prefers firm ground, won Saturday's $200,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on the Calder turf course.

As luck would have it, Man From Wicklow caught soft going in several important engagements this season, but the ground was firm for the McKnight. There were other extenuating circumstances that led to his record of no victories in 2002.

"He had some health problems, as well," Violette said. "He had a lingering lung infection for part of the season and he tied up a few days before the Turf Classic, forcing us to scratch him.

"Nothing went smoothly this year. He was ready to run a good race in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga and clipped heels and stumbled early, almost losing his rider. He did not have the best racing luck in the Sky Classic at Woodbine, either, but once again finished well. I thought he would run well in the McKnight and he didn't let me down."

George Cavanaugh was a pioneer breeder in the Ocala, Fla., area and the namesake of My Dad George, the favorite for the 1970 Kentucky Derby, in which he finished second to the 15-1 Dust Commander. Cavanaugh's son Jim operates a small breeding operation in Ocala and that is where Violette first saw Man From Wicklow. He liked what he saw and purchased him privately, later selling interests to several friends while retaining control of the horse.

Graham Motion knows his horse, too.

New Economy, owned by Robert S. Evans, prefers firm ground. A daughter of Red Ransom, she has been catching soft conditions, and while she gives it a try, she is not as effective.

Motion maintained his poise, gave New Economy another chance in Saturday's $200,000 La Prevoyante Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on the Calder turf course, and saw her rally to win with authority under a well-judged ride by Rosemary Homeister Jr.

"She is not an easy filly to ride," Motion says. "Rosemary rode her in the recent My Charmer and the experience was helpful. She rode a lovely race in the La Prevoyante."

New Economy was bred by owner Evans, whose brother, Ned, has one of the country's most successful stables this year. Their father, the late Thomas Mellon Evans, was a pillar of the turf and won the 1981 Kentucky Derby with Pleasant Colony. Robert Evans has bred principally to sell, but he has had the occasional good horse in his stable and appears to have another in New Economy.

Motion is considering Gulfstream's The Very One Handicap, at a mile and three furlongs in mid-February, for her next start. With the La Prevoyante to recommend her, she is an attractive item.