HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- Larry Jones, the sequel, might be better than the original.
A high-profile trainer, Jones is making his comeback during the Oaklawn Park meet that opens on Friday. He had retired in November 2009, but after clearing up a complex health issue that had dogged him for a while, he has resumed training a 36-horse stable.
The barn's depth is enviable. Jones has graded winners Havre de Grace, No Such Word, and Payton d'Oro in his care, while Winslow Homer is an Oaklawn Handicap prospect. Toss in the promising 3-year-olds Joyful Victory and Commander, and Jones would seem poised to return to the national spotlight that followed him through the careers of such horses as Eight Belles, Hard Spun, Proud Spell, Friesan Fire, Island Sand, and Kodiak Kowboy.
Jones, 54, announced his retirement back in 2008, not long after Eight Belles sustained a catastrophic injury following her second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. The stable was later turned over to his wife, Cindy, and this past November she won the Grade 1 Gazelle with No Such Word. Jones said he is glad to be back in the saddle, although he literally spent the past year in it, working as an exercise rider for Cindy.
"I was in the saddle, I was just off the telephone," quipped Jones. "Cindy carried on and did well and kept everybody happy while I was needing to take some time. I was able to get a lot of health issues straightened up in the last year and I feel better."
Jones was diagnosed with high levels of aluminum in his system, and it led to an enlarged liver and high blood pressure. His doctors worked to lower the aluminum levels, which were six times the norm, due in large part to the antiperspirant Jones was using. A hands-on horseman, Jones said he would shower twice a day and "slather on" the product that, like most deodorants, had aluminum as its chief ingredient.
"It affected every part of me," he said.
Jones started feeling better, and said that it was just a few months ago that his wife, Cindy, informed him he would be resuming his training career.
"She told me I was coming back," he said. "All the stalls at Oaklawn were in her name. She called the track and changed them to my name, and that's the first I heard about it!"