The script playing out in 2015 is one that's awfully familiar for trainer Larry Jones and Airdrie Stud owner Brereton Jones. And it's one they could live 1,000 more times and never tire of.
Twice, the two — who are not related — have raised hands together in celebration of a Kentucky Oaks triumph, first with Proud Spell in 2008 and again with Believe You Can in 2012.
Lovely Maria is the latest in a string of top fillies to bear Brereton Jones' colors and Larry Jones' guidance. She will become the latest to try to bring the duo more Oaks glory, a right she emphatically earned when she scored a 31/4-length victory over six challengers in Saturday's Grade I, $500,000 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.
The 11⁄16-mile Ashland for 3-year-old fillies was one of four graded stakes on the undercard of Saturday's Grade I, $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes lineup.
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Larry Jones already has one top Oaks contender in multiple graded stakes winner I'm a Chatterbox — the stablemate who bested Lovely Maria when they faced off in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds on Feb. 21.
The Hopkinsville native has maintained that with more seasoning and added distance, Lovely Maria could be special in her own right. With veteran jockey Kerwin Clark in the irons, the daughter of Majesticperfection sat a perfect stalking trip behind Temper Mint Patty and Angela Renee in the Ashland, rating third in an outside path through a half-mile in :48.53 before surging up three wide on the final turn en route to giving the 55-year-old Clark his first career Grade I victory.
"This filly has been training so good. We worked her, (graded stakes winner) Albano and Chatterbox all the same day at Fair Grounds last month and this filly we felt like had the best work of the three," Larry Jones said. "She just is doing everything right at the right time.
"A lot of owners would have been upset to have a stablemate beat their horse. But Brereton said (after the Rachel Alexandra) 'We've won two Oaks ... and I feel like we're on another Oaks winner.' She looks like she very well could do it again."
Lovely Maria hit the wire in 1:43.66 over a track rated fast with Grade I winner Angela Renee 23/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Silverpocketsfull.
"This shows you're never too old to win a Grade I," said Clark. "Realistically at my age, I didn't figure I'd be riding these kind of horses again. Larry Jones and his owners have been a Godsend. They put me on some nice horses and this is the result."
Princess Violet takes Madison
Barry Schwartz's homebred filly Princess Violet held off multiple Grade I winner Stopchargingmaria in the stretch to collect her first career Grade I triumph, taking the $350,000 Madison Stakes by a half-length.
Trained by Linda Rice, Princess Violet had knocked on the door against graded stakes company, running second to eventual champion Untapable in the Grade I Mother Goose last June and runner-up again facing Lady Sabelia in the Grade I Barbara Fritchie Handicap on Feb. 14.
Lady Sabelia, sent off as the 2-1 favorite, was in her typical spot on the lead in the 7-furlong Madison with Princess Violet rating fifth through a half-mile in :44.73.
Jockey Junior Alvarado handily guided Princess Violet just outside of the tiring pacesetter at the head of the lane and kept her to task with right-handed urging to hold off Stopchargingmaria, who was making her first start since September.
Princess Violet covered the distance in 1:22.73. Stopchargingmaria was 21/4 lengths clear of Clearly Confused in third.
Kobe's Back in a big way in Commonwealth
Graded stakes winner Kobe's Back ended his six-race losing skid, mounting a huge last-to-first rally on the far outside to prevail by three-quarters of a length over C. Zee in the Grade III, $300,000 Commonwealth Stakes going 7 furlongs.
Kobe's Back had been on the slide since winning the Grade II San Vicente in February 2014. The 4-year-old son of Flatter was switched from the barn of trainer John Sadler to Peter Eurton this year and came into the Commonwealth off a runner-up finish in the Grade II San Carlos on March 7, his first start since running fifth in the Grade I Bing Crosby last July.
Kobe's Back hit the wire in 1:22.16 over a track rated fast.
Something Extra comes through in Shakertown
After hitting the board in the last two editions of Keeneland's Grade III Shakertown Stakes, Something Extra broke on top Saturday and stayed there, winning the 51/2-furlong turf sprint in front-running fashion.
Something Extra, trained by Gail Cox, was making his first start since running seventh in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 1. The venerable 7-year-old Indian Charlie gelding was on his game under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan on Saturday, ripping off fractions of :21.38 and :44.55 over a yielding course.
Something Extra opened up a 3-length advantage in the stretch and kept digging with determined strides as 44-1 long shot Channel Marker rallied from last in the 10-horse field to make a charge for place money.
Something Extra improved his career mark to nine wins from 29 starts as he crossed the wire in 1:02.85.