Jeanne Jones might have won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes . . . but for a horde of photographers. She might have won a lot of other races . . . but for herself.
Now, just 3 months away from her fourth birthday, Jeanne Jones may finally have quit being her own worst enemy.
“Age will help this filly,” says her trainer, Charlie Whittingham. “The only thing that age doesn’t help is people.”
Winning for the first time since April, for the fourth time in her life and the first time on grass, Jeanne Jones turned in a professional effort Wednesday, taking the $86,850 Autumn Days Handicap by three-quarters of a length over Native Paster as Oak Tree opened its 27-day season before 39,855 fans at Santa Anita.
It was an eclectic afternoon, more so than most days at a track. Trainer Mel Stute ran 1-2 in an earlier stake with a couple of 2-year-old colts and got Breeders’ Cup fever. Three longshots won successive races midway through the program that paid $132.20, $103.20 and $79.40, respectively. A 2-year-old colt, Flying Continental, ran a 1:34 mile and came within two-fifths of a second of the track record, and there was one stewards’ disqualification.
Then the 75-year-old Whittingham, who refutes his own aphorism about age, tied the day together by saddling Jeanne Jones for her come-from-behind win, the Hall of Fame trainer’s first in a stake since Lively One won the Swaps at Hollywood Park on July 23.
Whittingham may have Breeders’ Cup fever, too--he would like to win a second straight Classic with Ferdinand, for example--but Jeanne Jones is not part of the pulse beat. She will stay in California, to concentrate on more grass races, which her breeding favors. Her sire is Nijinsky II and her dam is Beautiful Glass, who holds the 5-furlong grass record at Hollywood Park.
“This is a temperamental filly,” Whittingham said. “You can’t hit her with the whip, you can’t do anything with her. But maybe the grass and age will bring her around.”
If ever there were a race that might be trouble for Jeanne Jones, it was the Autumn Days: 6 1/2 furlongs, down the hill, a brief run over a patch of dirt at the top of the stretch and a 14-horse field.
But there were no mishaps. “She did everything right,” said her jockey, Aaron Gryder. “She went into every hole that I asked her to.”
In the third race of her life, Jeanne Jones led by 6 lengths with an eighth of a mile to run in the Breeders’ Cup at Hollywood Park last November, but she shied from the fence near the finish line, lost stride and was nosed out by Epitome.
Whittingham thought a large group of photographers, stationed underneath the inner rail just beyond the finish line, could have spooked her. She has had similar problems in many of her races, but behaved enough to win a small stake at Santa Anita last March and captured the Fantasy in stakes-record time at Oaklawn Park in April.
On Wednesday, Jeanne Jones earned $53,100 for her breeders and owners, John and Betty Mabee of San Diego, and paid $13 to win after being clocked in 1:14 4/5. Native Paster, who set a world record for 6 1/2 furlongs on dirt in her last start, at Del Mar, lost a 2 1/2-length lead in the stretch but held on by a neck over Serve n’ Volley for the place money. Hairless Heiress, the 12-5 favorite, finished 13th.
In the day’s other stake, the $113,400 Desert Wine Sales, Stute had that wonderful feeling of having one or the other of his starters being a cinch winner with a sixteenth of a mile to go. Double Quick, under Martin Pedroza, held off Shipping Time by a head and it was 4 1/2 lengths farther back to Snows in Paris in third place. Stute’s third starter, Queen Mary’s Boy, ran fifth.
Double Quick ran 7 furlongs in 1:23 and paid $10.60.
At Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, Stute will be trying to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint for the second straight year with Very Subtle, and in Wednesday’s pair he thinks he has additional prospects for Kentucky.
“I liked what I saw,” Stute said. “We’ll run them in the Norfolk (at Santa Anita on Oct. 15) and that should tell us something.”