Kentucky Derby

'Team O'Neill': Equine chiropractor key member of stable

Once you get past his trademark uniform of cowboy boots and shorts, the most striking thing one notices about Larry "Thumper" Jones are the massive, intuitive tools known as his hands.

Where once his digits helped make the Canadian native a daunting on-ice force during his hockey playing days, Jones' appendages have become one of the most valuable assets for the horse who could go down as the most spectacular member of his generation.

As the equine chiropractor for trainer Doug O'Neill, the quick-witted Jones is credited with helping to keep I'll Have Another's stride brilliantly efficient in its motion. Anyone who has watched Jones manipulate the frame of a 1,000-plus pound Thoroughbred can attest it is on par with witnessing a first-rate magician — you have to see it for yourself to really appreciate the act.

No shrinking violet in either his physical stature or personality, Jones can often feel and tweak what isn't obvious even to an astute eye as he works his hands around a horse's back end and carefully stretches and extends his client's legs.

"He's a legend," O'Neill said of Jones. "He's worked on a lot of horses all over the world, from polo horses and any breed you can think of, he can adjust them. He's so big and strong he can pick these horses' legs up and does this certain positioning, kind of realigning them. That was the one thing I was wanting to maintain is (I'll Have Another's) beautiful long stride and with Larry's help we were able to."