If a filly is to ever again win the Kentucky Derby — which Fox Hill Farm’s Eight Belles will apparently get the opportunity to do come Saturday — nothing could be more fitting than for her to be trained by Larry Jones, the friendly guy with the big hat.
Eight Belles at Churchill Downs, with the trainer Larry Jones aboard. (Garry Jones/Associated Press)
Thanks mostly to the exploits of Hard Spun, the iron horse who contested every step of the 2007 Triple Crown trail, Jones’s bowlegs, long stirrups and cowboy chaps are now a regular curiosity on the backstretch of virtually every big race. Astride his mountainous yellow lead pony Pal, he is as readily identifiable as the white-haired Bob Baffert or the the nattily turned-out D. Wayne Lukas.
But it was neither Pal nor Hard Spun that Jones rode from the obscurity of Ellis Park, the hardscrabble Western Kentucky track that once boasted a corn crop in its infield. It was a bunch of blisteringly fast fillies, the likes of Josh’s Madelyn, who won two Grade II races and nearly a half-million dollars, and Island Sand, who won the Grade I Acorn and the $1 million Delaware Handicap.