It has been quite a year for Larry Jones, but he’s hoping to end it on a high note at Friday’s 141st running of the $1 million, Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
Jones highlights the field for Friday’s race, which is filled with familiar faces from Louisiana, with his two entrants into Friday’s race — I’m a Chatterbox and Lovely Maria.
I’m a Chatterbox, which swept all three of the sophomore filly prep races held at the Fair Grounds this year, will be the co-second favorite on race day with 4-1 odds, while Lovely Maria comes in as the fourth choice with 5-1 odds.
“It’s been really exciting to see those two have as much success as they’ve had this year,” Jones said. “They both are coming off wins, and we feel like we have a legitimate shot to win with either horse.”
Jones, who trained Kentucky Oaks winners in 2008 and 2012, hopes that I’m a Chatterbox can become the eighth filly in the past 12 years to carry a win at the Fair Ground Oaks to a victory at “The Run for the Lilies”.
“She’s done everything we’ve asked her to do, and she’s already got some pretty impressive wins under her belt,” Jones said of I’m a Chatterbox. “She listens to the jockey really well, and we’re just hoping she can carry her hot streak over to Friday.”
Among the 15-filly field, three of the jockeys set to ride in Friday finished among the top-8 in the Fair Grounds jockey standings this year.
As he has done in all of I’m a Chatterbox’s recent wins, Florent Geroux, who finished fourth in the Fair Grounds standings, will be riding Friday’s second co-favorite, and Jones said he has “a huge amount” of trust in Geroux going into the race.
Kerwin Clark will be riding Lovely Maria, and Robby Albarado will be riding Shook up. They finished eighth and sixth, respectively, in this year’s standings.
Forever Unbridled will be the only horse who has run several races at the Fair Grounds but will not be looking to the Fair Grounds leaderboards for a jockey to ride the 15-1 favorite. Instead, the filly will be mounted by Hall of Fame jockey Mike E. Smith.
“We just felt really comfortable with Mike, and we think there’s no doubt he’ll do a really good job on Friday,” said Dallas Stewart, the trainer for Forever Unbridled.
Stewart, along with Jones, highlight some of the familiar names who will be training some of the participants in the Kentucky Oaks this year.
Stewart, a New Orleans native, wasn’t among the names to reach the Fair Grounds’ training standings, though he cut his teeth at the New Orleans race track and has been a mainstay there for years.
Among some of the trainers who did make it on this year’s standings for the Fair Grounds and are in this year’s Kentucky Oaks are Jones (seventh place) and Steve Asmussen (fourth place), who is training Shook up.
“It’s an extremely deep field this year, no doubt,” Stewart said. “There’s going to be a ton of good horses out there, and we just have to make sure we come out ready to compete.”