Racing fans who like to parlay sentiment might consider John Jones, a 6-year old gelding running in one of four $100,000 races at Laurel Park Jan. 27.
John Jones is an offspring of Smarty Jones, the colt who just missed winning the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes in 2004.
John Jones, a Maryland-bred, is trying to continue a bounce-back from a tepid campaign in 2017 after a great year as a 4-year-old when he won six of 13 starts. However, last year he started just four times as he recovered from a minor injury.
As a 5-year-old, John Jones did no better than fourth in his first three starts, but in his last 2017 race in late December, he won by 2.5 lengths. He'll try to keep that momentum when he leaves the starting gate in the 50th running of the $100,000 Native Dancer.
Adding to the storyline, John Jones is trained by Lacy Gaudet, whose father, prominent Maryland trainer Eddie Gaudet,
died at age 87 early this year
. This will be the first stakes race for Lacy Gaudet since her father's passing.
The Native Dancer, for horses 4-and-older, will be run over 1 1/16th miles and is among 10 races on Saturday's card. Another high-profile race will be the 35th running of the $100,000 Nellie Morse for fillies and mares 4-and-older, also at 1 1/16th miles.
The two other $100,000 races will be the 7-furlong Frank J. Whiteley for 3-year-olds and the 6-furlong Marshua for 3-year-old fillies.
John Jones, listed at 8-5 in the early odds, will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado and will come out of the No. 4 post position.
"The post is fine. As long he didn't draw the one or two hole, we were fine with that," Lacey Gaudet said. "He's shown before going the two turns that he can be a little more tactical. Going a mile and a sixteenth here you don't want to be much further out than the six hole. That'll be the only question is getting him back to going two turns, where he's won before. I think having that fantastic race under his belt last time out will help him and will help our confidence going into this race."
The favorite in the Native Dancer is Afleet Willy (7-5 in the early odds). Afleet Willy is trained by Claudio Gonzalez, Maryland's leading trainer of 2017. Afleet Willy, a 5-year-old gelding, had won back-to-back stakes races before finishing eighth as the favorite following a rough trip in a 6-furlong race Jan. 8.
In the Nellie Morse, the 2-1 early odds favorite Julerette will be racing for the first time in Maryland. She has won three straight and although none were stakes races, Julerette has been stretching her win margins. Her last triumph was by 8 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Laurel Park has live racing this weekend, Friday through Sunday, Jan. 26-28, with the first post time at 12:30 p.m.