TRM Trainer of the Quarter - Larry Jones

TheTRM trainer of the quarter award has been won by Larry Jones. Larry and her team will receive a TRM product portfolio worth in excess of $1,500. The portfolio will consist of TRM tack bags and saddle pads as well as a large selection of the world famous TRM product range.

Finishing second may be like kissing your mother - as Jones said after watching his gallant three-year-old colt Hard Spun finished second to Curlin in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, Oct. 27, at Monmouth Park - but it’s better than no kiss at all. And if you are destined to finish second, there are no better times to do it than in million dollar races.

Jones, wearing his ever-present white cowboy hat, saddled one other horse that day, Proud Spell, and she finished second to undefeated Indian Blessing in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly. Proud Spell had won her three prior starts, including the Grade 2 Matron.

Those two seconds capped a breakthrough year for the 50-year-old trainer, whose $5.7 million in earnings ranked 13th nationally through early November.

“It’s something you only dream of,” Jones said, Nov. 9th. “I never expected it to happen to me.”

It didn’t happen by accident.

Jones, whose other Breeders’ Cup starter, Ruby’s Reflection, finished 10th in the 2002 Juvenile Filly at Arlington Park, is an accomplished horseman whose grandfather and father had horses on their farms. His first ride was on his grandfather’s mule at the age of 3. Jones then rode horses regularly on his dad’s cattle farm, then Quarter Horses at bush tracks in Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois. He turned to training in 1980 after he purchased a filly, Ala Turf, for $800.

Jones didn’t win a stakes race until 1995 with Capt. Bowl, another horse who cost $800. He improved his stock gradually and won Grade 1 stakes with Island Sand and Wildcat Bettie B, but Hard Spun took him to another level.

“I’ve got to put credit to the horse,” Jones said. “He was a very easy horse to train.”

Jones trained him brilliantly. After Hard Spun won the Grade 2 Lanes End Stakes easily, he finished second in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont Stakes. Jones freshened him and he finished second to Any Given Saturday in the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth.

Rather than backing off with Hard Spun, Jones asked the son of Danzig to cut back from a mile-and-an-eighth to seven furlongs in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes on Travers Day at Saratoga. First Defence headed Hard Spun in mid-stretch, but Hard Spun responded instantaneously, surging again to win by a length and a half. “Probably 98 percent of the horses in the Breeders’ Cup you wouldn’t do that, but Hard Spun is a real fast horse,” Jones said. “With his natural speed, it was easy.”

But how would Hard Spun respond to being stretched out to a mile-and-a-quarter for the Breeders’ Cup Classic? Hard Spun took the lead early and then attempted to take his eight rivals wire-to-wire over the sloppy Monmouth Park track, zipping his first half-mile in :45.85. He opened a two-length lead after one mile before he was confronted on the inside by Kentucky Derby and Travers winner Street Sense and on the outside by Preakness and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Curlin. Hard Spun put away Street Sense, but had no answer for Curlin, who won by 4 ½ lengths. Hard Spun held second by 4 ¾ lengths over Awesome Gem, who beat Street Sense by a length for third. “I was very proud,” Jones said. “Curlin is special. You’re always hoping for better, but believe me, we couldn’t have had a much better day,” Jones said.

Or a much better year. “It’s been wonderful, you bet,” Jones said.