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John Jones

 

Dk.b./br.g., 2012, by Smarty Jones—Chrusciki, by Polish Numbers

Bred by Nancy Lee Farms, owned by Matthew Schera

trained by Lacey Gaudet, Foaled at Willowdale Farm, Butler.

 Victor and Nancy Frenkil didn’t come away from their trip to Long Island for the 2004 Belmont Stakes with a positive feeling.

“Smarty Jones was a favorite of my wife and myself,” Victor Frenkil said in mid-February. “We watched him win the Derby on TV and we saw him win the Preakness in person. We got all excited, went to Belmont, paid for some special celebration tickets for after the race, after he won the Triple Crown.

“We went up to watch him win it, which he didn’t. Then we went to the VIP party that we bought tickets for and the doors were locked; of course because he didn’t win. Then we waited two hours to get out of Belmont. After that it seemed good to say, ‘We’re not coming back unless we get a horse in the Belmont.’ ”

The experience did nothing to diminish the way the Frenkils felt about Smarty Jones, the Pennsylvania-bred whose Triple Crown bid was squelched by upset winner Birdstone on an otherwise perfect afternoon. The longtime breeders from Glyndon, Md., held Smarty Jones in such high regard that they sent one of their most successful mares, Chrusciki, to the stallion in 2011.

The resulting foal was John Jones, raised at the couple’s farm on Butler Road in the northwest section of Baltimore County and 2016’s Maryland-bred champion older male. John Jones was foaled in mid-March 2012 and Frenkil remembers him as a “good horse, sometimes full of himself” as a youngster.

“He was well behaved though, looked good and had a lot of class,” Frenkil said. “Everybody liked him and he showed a lot, even in his early training.”

John Jones didn’t make it to the races until early in his 3-year-old season in April 2015, nearly three years after Nancy Frenkil passed away at age 75 in July 2012. He won twice in seven starts in 2015 racing for Frenkil’s Nancy Lee Farms before three consecutive losses to start 2016 and a drop into claiming company. Matt Schera and trainer Lacey Gaudet claimed John Jones for $25,000 in July 2016, knowing he was eligible for upcoming Maryland-bred stakes sprinting on the grass.

“We thought he was bred for the grass and worth trying to get him back on it at some point,” Gaudet said. “And that grass might make him a little bit better horse, if he could get an honest turf race into him.”

John Jones made good on his new connections’ plan when a month later he topped a field that included Ben’s Cat to win the $75,000 Mister Diz Stakes for Maryland-bred and Maryland-sired runners. John Jones won three straight at Laurel after that, two in allowance company going 1 mile on the dirt and the $69,060 Claiming Crown Jewel Preview going 9 furlongs. Beaten 2 lengths when third in the $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream Park, John Jones ended the season with a 5-length victory in the Jennings Stakes on Laurel’s New Year’s Eve card.

Frenkil said it was unfortunate that he lost John Jones for $25,000, but joked that it “made sense at the time.”

“Maybe it was the change of scenery and the way it unfolded, I think one of his races there were only two or three horses, and him going against various horses getting old and not producing,” he said. “He was put in the right races at the right time. I absolutely followed him. Easy question. I was pleased for the people who claimed him; they’re good people and take care of their horses.”

Frenkil, who considers John Jones and his younger siblings living tributes to his wife of 54 years, went back to Smarty Jones again with Chrusciki. The Polish Numbers mare, purchased as a weanling for $40,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December Mixed sale, won two stakes, placed in seven others and earned $322,828. She produced a filly by Smarty Jones that is now a yearling. That filly follows the 2-year-old Old Fashioned colt C C Old Fashioned and the 3-year-old E Dubai gelding Eastern Bay, fourth in the Frank Whiteley Jr. Stakes in late January.

“She’s been a good foundation mare for us,” Frenkil said. “What we do is breed a few mares and race a couple homebreds every year. We breed to race. We’ve been doing it about 30 years now; it was a project of my late wife, who knew what she was doing. I enjoy the game. I’m not as good at it as she was but I keep trying.” 

Tom Law

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