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Can Lightning Strike Twice For Jones?


Published: October 27, 2011 7:28 pm ET

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Dustin Jones brought a good two-year-old trotting filly to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs last year for the juvenile trotting filly Breeders Crown contest. After finishing second in her elimination heat, he thought it would be a difficult task to beat Fitness Girl. When his charge Martininontherocks, landed post eight regular, pilot Sylvain Filion stepped aside and things didn't appear that promising.

But Jones was able to secure the services of Ron Pierce and one of the sport's major catch-drivers didn't bother concerning himself with post position or the infield tote-board which registered 30-1. Instead Pierce put Martininontherocks in front and waltzed away with the easiest kind of victory.

Jones may be in a familiar spot this Saturday night with the juvenile trotting colt Prestidigitator. The $120,000 yearling purchase by Ecurie Synergie of Montreal has been installed as a 10-1 outsider in the $600,000 Breeders Crown final, but Jones believes his colt could be as good as any.

A winner three times in nine starts, Prestidigitator earned a spot in the final after a long and hard mile in last Friday's eliminations. "He made a break not getting to the gate in the Gold final," said Jones reflecting on the October 14 start at Woodbine.

"Last week Sylvain put his nose on the gait and he got away cleanly." Though Prestidigitator did get away cleanly he also got away at the back of the pack with race-favorites Possess The Will and Magic Tonight both more than a dozen lengths ahead of the colt at the quarter pole. Filion moved Prestidigitator down the backstretch with authority and the colt fought bravely for the final half beaten for second barely.

That mile was one big mile but the talented colt has had others. Primarily two huge miles in the Wellwood trials and final. "I think his best race may very well have been in the Wellwood final," said Jones. "He had the 10 hole and spotted the field some 17 lengths. He trotted his last three quarters in 1:24.4. " The colt rallied sharply in the Wellwood to finish fourth behind Ontario star The Game Plan.

While last year's Crown champ Martiniontherocks was a real sweetheart on the racetrack, Prestidigitator has been a handful at times on the racetrack. "When he sees other horses go by he wants to go. On the farm he's calm and easy but once he gets on the racetrack he's totally different," offered Jones.

With earnings this year of $122,485, the colt has already surpassed his purchase price. Jones was happy with the way he came out of the elimination race and plans to spend a little more time behind the starting gate so that he can feel more confident on Saturday night.

"I'm going to jog him behind the gate on Friday," said the trainer hopeful that the strapping colt will mind his manners and become better acclimated with the big money on the line.

Thus far the colt has not disappointed, but as is the case in trotting there are always bumps in the road. Thus far Prestidigitator hasn't won the big one. He's taken two Ontario Sire Stakes gold elimination races but has also miscued in two $130,000 finals. At the same time he's also exhibited incredible endurance overcoming posts eight, nine and ten in four of his nine career starts.

Prestidigitator's pedigree could throw you off if you don't pay close attention. His dam, Shesa Priority was a Michigan-bred by a stud known as Catch A Thrill. What the mare may have lacked on paper she didn't at the racetrack and that caught the eye of Jones and his backers last year at Harrisburg.

"This mare [Catch A Thrill] won a lot of races," he said. Specifically she won 24 of 51 career starts in Michigan, banking more than $272,000 along the way. But Jones also liked what she had done previously as a broodmare. "She produced some good horses by Classic Photo and Valley Victor. That impressed me," recalled Jones.

Realistically Jones thinks that if his horse gets a clean trip he can be competitive on Saturday night. Following that race he's looking forward to a potential rematch with The Game Plan in the Ontario Super Finals at Woodbine. To date the two have not exactly been close enough to battle with Prestidigitator breaking once and drawing post 10 the other time they met.

"I'd like to see what happens when we get next to him, "said the conditioner with a tone of optimism.

For now Jones hopes his horse can be focused and mind his manners for Saturday's big dance. Last year Manofmanymissions got his act together and overcame post nine to capture the Breeders Crown juvenile colt trot at 13-1.

Can Prestidigitator do the same?

(Breeders Crown)

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