Friday, April 4, 2014

Brereton Jones says Albano won't run in Kentucky Derby

By Darius Owens
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Brereton Jones (Photo by Darius Owens)
Former Gov. Brereton Jones’ colt Albano placed fourth in the Louisiana Derby last weekend, picking up points for the Kentucky Derby, but Jones said this week that the young three-year-old is just not quite ready to run the big race.

“We could push him into the Derby, and he’s beaten several other horses who will be running in it.” Jones said in an interview at his Airdrie Stud farm west of Midway. “I could be making a mistake by not doing that, but I don’t think so.”

The decision was a mutual one between Jones and the horse’s trainer, Larry Jones (no relation), said the former governor. He holds a strong philosophy about rigorously training his racehorses and compares it to preparing athletes.

“If you want your son to be a good athlete … you let him go out and play with the guys who may be tougher than he is, he’ll get stronger, and he’ll become a better athlete. That’s the way with some of these horses.” Jones said. “It’s like if you look at a high school football player, you can see … if he’s going to be a real athlete or may need another year or two to reach his peak.”

Jones said the decision might have been different if Albano had placed in first or second in Louisiana. “He very well could have done that, but he was fouled.”

Albano was the fifth horse to pass the finish line, but because he was shoved going into the final turn, the stewards moved him up to fourth. That earned him 10 points toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby, in the system Churchill Downs uses to limit the field to no more than 20 horses.

Fourth place was Albano’s lowest finish in six starts. He came into the race off a very close second-place finish in last month’s Risen Star Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race. The Louisiana Derby, also at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, is a mile and an eighth; the Kentucky Derby is a mile and a quarter.

Albano’s first race as a three-year-old was the LeComte Stakes, a mile and 70 yards at the Fair Grounds in January. He finished second by almost seven lengths to Vicar’s In Trouble – who won the Louisiana Derby, upsetting favorite Intense Holiday, who had beaten Albano by a nose in the Risen Star. In December, Albano won the six-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes at the Fair Grounds.

Albano wins Sugar Bowl (Lou Hodges Photography/Fair Grounds)
Jones bred Albano, who won't actually turn 3 until next month. The horse is by Istan out of Pocho’s Dream Girl. His grandsire, Fortunate Prospect, was a top sprinter who won 13 races out of 39 starts and earned $439,875 during his lifetime.

Albano is one of four stakes horses Jones has named for employees of the Sea View Hotel in Bal Harbour, Fla., a popular vacation spot for horse people. Jones’ recently successful horse and Albano’s brother, Mark Valeski, is named for a pool attendant he met at the hotel as he got into the horse business 40 years ago.

He said that when he asked Valeski if he would mind having a horse named for  him,”You would have thought I asked if he wanted a million dollars for his birthday, he got so excited about that.” When the horse won the 2012 Peter Pan Stakes at New York’s Belmont Park, Jones said he gained new inspiration on how to give homage those he remembered from early in his horse career.

Jones said he thought, “If it means so much to Mark, it’s bound to mean a lot to the other people who work at Sea View, particularly the ones who aren’t working in the higher level jobs,” he said, as faint tears emerged from his eyes.

He said he asked a short-order cook named Albano if he could name a horse after him, and laughed remembering the answer: “He said … I was hoping you would ask, since you named one after Mark.”      

Airdrie Stud office (Photo by Darius Owens)
Jones, who will be 75 on June 27, has owned many racehorses through the years on his farm, three miles from Midway. He said the farm has 2,700 acres and employs 77 full-time workers.

Before and during his 1991-95 governorship, Jones was known almost exclusively as a breeder and syndicator. Since then, he has moved into more racing because of the money and the sensation that he gets. “I love the feelings you get from racing horses,” he said. “It’s a competitive situation, and it’s a way to really learn how to raise a good horse better than selling it to somebody else.”

Jones says Airdrie focuses on what’s good for the horses, not building fancy barns that might appeal to horse buyers, though he doesn't begrudge other farm owners for that. His model of rigorous training and keeping his horses outside, even in difficult weather, has worked wonders for him in the past, he said, and he plans on keeping it: “If you raise your horse to be a racehorse and not as a sales horse, I think you raise a better racehorse.”

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