Dustin Jones too busy to cry over 2016

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - HAROLD HOWE hjhowe@rogers.com

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.

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