Dustin Jones too busy to cry over 2016
It is supposed to be a time that we think of our country celebrating its 150 years of existence, but for trainer Dustin Jones, his thoughts lie southward.
Earlier this month, the Waterdown horseman and his wife Marianne purchased a home in Vero Beach, Fla., where he will set up shop for the winter, marking the first time in his career that he has trained his stable in the sunny south.
“It was Marianne who pushed this starting about two years ago. She said time was marching on and said that I had earned the right to do this.
Then our family farm in Melbourne, Que., finally sold so it all came together earlier this year,” he explains from his summer base at Classy Lane Training Centre near Puslinch.
“Palema Trotting Centre was where I decided I wanted to base from — it’s the best spot in Florida. So then we decided rather than rent we’d buy a home as an investment, and then bought a nice trailer park home for the summers here. Our two kids are pretty much gone so it all seemed to fit.”
At age 55 Jones will find the winters quite different from 5:30 a.m. starts in the dark and cold of Ontario. Until one has actually been toiling in the barn and on the track during these months, they do not know the challenges.
It is often said that wintering in Florida is all for the comfort of the trainer. That is based on the fact that many great horses were developed in Canada, leading to the claim that there is little benefit developing horses south of the border and it is simply added cost.
Jones has secured 20 stalls starting in November as he attempts to have a rebound year after a near-disastrous 2016 season.
“I never had as many two-yearolds to develop as I did then, and never had as many lame horses. It was a terrible year and very disappointing to see a number of owners leave and go elsewhere. But I’m not the first one to have bad years and, while I only have 18 head in total, I think I’ve got some young ones that will make the grade.”
An early ray of sunshine has been three-year-old trotter Try Try Again, who won a $68,000 Ontario Sires Stake event on Tuesday at Mohawk Racetrack. This leaves him undefeated in all five lifetime starts.
“I’m not sure how good he is but for sure he’s a solid Ontario Sires Stake horse which is where we plan to race him for the summer, and then in the fall he could go in the Simcoe Stake, Matron Stake and the Breeders Crown if good enough.
“He’s done everything that has been asked of him although the other night he seemed to stall a bit, but he hung tough and got it done.”
Purchased for $35,000 as a yearling, the colt looks like a bargain which Jones believes came about because of his small stature at the time. But he is a good sized animal and still growing.
“I got him qualified last year but a couple days later came up with a hairline crack in a knee. We had him on stall rest for four months and it paid off to listen to the veterinarian. He could make a good bit of money by year’s end.”
While Jones was disappointed with 2016, he has fashioned an enviable year and, by his own admission, when he needs a good horse to come along, it seemingly happens.
“I’m hopeful this year will be a good one as we get ready for the Florida move. No trainer wakes up one day and knows how to train horses, and he doesn’t go to bed one night forgetting how to train them. Bad things happen and trainers have to be able to roll with the punches. It’s just part of the game.”
But come late fall, Jones’ game will be in the sunny south.