Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After nearly 30 years in the racing business, trainer Larry Jones became an overnight sensation in 2007 with Kentucky Derby contender Hard Spun. Now two years later the native of the Bluegrass State is coming to the finish line as a thoroughbred conditioner.
Larry, who is married to Cindy, has had a great few years to conclude his career. Two years ago Hard Spun gave him the excitement of mixing it up the best three-year-olds in the country. The colt won the Lane's End Stakes, was second in the Run for the Roses and third in the Preakness Stakes.
Hard Spun, owned by Fox Hill Farms, was second in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park and in his last career start finished second to three-year-old Curlin in the Breeders' Cup Classic at the Jersey Shore track.
"I got the opportunity to try the large-volume stable and found it's just not for me," Jones said. "But we appreciate all the opportunities every owner gave us. Hopefully, we were successful at it, and did them a good job. But this life is not a dress rehearsal; we got to do it right this time."
Jones announced his retirement last September in the wake of his filly Eight Belles' tragic injury immediately after her finishing second in the Kentucky Derby to Big Brown. The filly was euthanized on the track at Churchill Downs that first Saturday in May of 2008.
The trainer was able to take solace last year with the outstanding filly champion Proud Spell who secured the Eclipse Award with victories in the Alabama, Kentucky Oaks and Delaware Oaks.
This year the 53-year-old trainer had early Kentucky Derby contenders Friesan Fire, Old Fashioned and filly Just Jenda. Just Jenda is owned by Cindy Jones who will begin training in 2010.
"I've told everyone, he's going to make my notes (on the horses) every morning and the first morning he doesn't leave me my notes, I'm calling in sick," Cindy kidded.
Back in September Larry turned over the training duties of some of the horses he had from Fox Hill Farms to Tony Dutrow to start the winding down process. Larry plans to continue providing aid to his wife by hauling horses, mucking stalls and galloping horses.
"We've been very lucky," Larry said. "We've been able to buy some fairly reasonably priced horses throughout our career that have gone on to make a lot of money. And thank goodness we've kind of worked ourselves into a situation where we can afford to do it for ourselves and a few select owners who are friends and will still be our friends when we're no longer racing.
"We're just trying to take a lot of the hassle out of it and enjoy it."
One thing that is learned when covering sports is that retirements are usually not forever. Many sports figures retire and then return following a refresher.
Larry Jones is one of those good guys that gives the right reasons to enjoy horse racing. Good luck to Larry and Cindy in all their future endeavors.