Jones-En

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Terry Thompson and Larry Jones met 15 years ago. The jockey and the trainer were doing their best to make a living at the Pea Patch, Ellis Park. Now, they’re sweeping Friday features at Pimlico. They hooked up to win the Black Eyed Susan with Payton d’Oro, a front-running powerhouse who improved her record to 4-for-7. Four in a row.

“We met in ’94, Ellis Park. I started riding for him, I guess, in ’96, Ellis Park, then Oaklawn, then he came to Prairie Meadows for a few years,” Thompson said, moments after guiding Payton d’Oro. “He begged me to come to Delaware and it was probably a mistake after Eight Belles, Hard Spun and all of them. I came last fall and tried it out and had a good couple of months.”

Jones has the racing world atwitter, first with his appearance (cowboy hat, jeans, boots to match) and secondly with his results. He wins. The Kentuckian conducts his business one way too. Straight. In the world of musical jockeys, Jones sticks to what got him here, riding Thompson and Gabriel Saez, on pretty much everything.

For Thompson, Jones has played a big impact on his career.

“Huge. Huge difference,” Thompson said. “He’s one trainer who’s always stuck with me through the good times, the bad times. I’ve had great career memories with Larry Jones.”

Loyalty.

“It’s rare these days, they switch riders a lot. I’ve been fired, it’s just how it goes,” Thompson said. “Larry is always pulling for me, if I’m riding one of his horses and an owner wants to make a change he always tries to convince them not to, we’ve not only got a work relationship, Larry and I have a great friendship off the track. We seem to get along good, he doesn’t give me instructions in the paddock, he knows I do my homework and we’re both out there to win.”

Thompson has been aboard Payton d’Oro for her entire career; they lost the first four times they went postward and now have kinged that with four straight victories. A mainstay at Iowa’s Prairie Meadows, Thompson wasn’t going to miss the Black Eyed Susan.

 “I had some great business where I was today, but I told my agent, I’m going to go ride Payton d’Oro. She’s on top of her game,” Thompson said. “I told him, ‘I’ll beat those fillies.’ He said, ‘Terry, it’s a tough race.’ I told him, ‘I’ll beat them, book a flight.’ It worked out. I’ve won the Acorn with Larry with Island Sands, and now the Black Eyed Susan.”

Jones convinced Thompson to try Delaware Park last fall and the jockey did well while catching the tail end of the meet. This year, he again decided to ride at Prairie Meadows before, most likely, moving his tack to Delaware Park when Prairie Meadows shuts at the end of July.

Unfortunately for Thompson – and the sport – Jones announced he will retire from training at the end of the year.

“We talked, unfortunately he’s working his way out of the business,” Thompson said. “I told him, ‘Larry, if you had all your 2-year-olds coming up, I’d come your way.’ He understands and he has Gabriel (Saez) too. I went with the comfort zone, I get to ride a lot of horses, a lot of favorites at Prairie Meadows. But, I was this close.”

I still can’t believe Jones is really going to retire.

“He’s going to retire,” Thompson said. “I think he’ll disappear for a year and come back. We went out to eat, I thought the same thing as you, but he’s out of here, he says. And he’s a man of his word.”