CRAWFORD | No way you'll read -- or believe -- this Kentucky Oak - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | No way you'll read -- or believe -- this Kentucky Oaks column

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The start of the 2015 Kentucky Oaks. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford). The start of the 2015 Kentucky Oaks. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford).
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Advanced web metrics, history, personal experience and the testimony of my peers in the profession all tell me, very few of you will read this column.

The night before the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks is old news. Everyone is at Derby parties. Or recovering from the day of racing — a record day for the Oaks this year, 123,723 at Churchill Downs. By the time everybody wakes up on Saturday, it's on to the Derby.

I've written some pretty good stories on the Oaks in my 10 years on the race. Rags to Riches, Proud Spell, Rachel Alexandra, Blind Luck. Are you kidding? Some years, it was a more impressive performance than we saw on Derby Day.

Didn't matter. Didn't move the needle. So I'm going to punch things up a bit with this one. Lovely Maria carried trainer Larry Jones and owner Brereton Jones to their third Kentucky Oaks win on Friday. 

Now, what if I told you that 13 months ago, her trainer fell off a horse and had to be placed into a medically induced coma for two days? Jones likes to ride his own horses in training. No more of that, his doctor told him. Jones didn't agree.

“The real problem wasn't with me riding horses," Jones said. "The problem was me falling off."

Nice line. But doctors told him he might not have another fall in him.

“Oh, I have another fall in me,” Jones said. “It's another get-up I might not have.”

No matter. The guy climbed back on. He's crazy. But he also trains fillies like nobody out there today. He might not have another get-up, but he might have a few Oaks wins left in him.

“Y'all say that I'm good with fillies,” he said after the race Friday. “I hope you are right. I can't figure what I'm doing wrong with colts. That's the thing that keeps bugging me.”

So you've got Larry Jones. He takes on this rider — nearly 40 years in the business and has never won a Grade 1 race. Kerwin "Boo Boo Clark turned 56 years old a couple of weeks ago. He's a grandfather.

“I mean, look, I've been doing this for 40 years,” he said after winning the race. “When I was in my 30s, I had an opportunity to ride good horses. But, at the same time, I was riding against riders like Pat Day and Jerry Bailey and Shane Sellers and Mark Guidry, those kind of guys. And if would you get lucky and find a good horse, most owners would come to the big dance. They want to switch riders. They want the more experienced, the ones that have been there before. And you would lose out, you know?

“So for me to get this opportunity at this time in my life when 15 years ago I had decided I was just going to stay in Louisiana and finish my career out there and just disappear quietly into the sunset, but I got lucky and I got blessed to be connected with Larry Jones and Brereton Jones. They just kind of grabbed me by the collar and said, ‘Here, look what I got for you. Go do something."

And he has. He won his first Grade I earlier this year. Now, he has won the Kentucky Oaks.

I know. You don't believe me. So what about this? Clark is talking about the filly, and he starts to tear up. He's talking about a daughter of his that was born with a disability, and another girl who has a disability who was the inspiration for the filly's name.

Then Brereton Jones, the filly's owner, takes over. Larry Jones used to call him governor, because he was governor of Kentucky from 1991 to '95. Now that he's gotten so many good horses from Jones, the trainer calls him “cousin.”

The governor said the filly was named after this girl whose family he encountered on vacation at the Seaview Hotel in Bell Harbor Florida. One day, the short order cook asked if he would name a horse after him. Jones did, and it wound up in a stakes race.

So he kept naming horses after people at the Seaview Hotel. He met Maria and knew he would name a horse for her. She lost her godmother — Mother Teresa. Yes, “the” Mother Teresa, as Jones described her.

“She is a person that smiles frequently and smiles with her eyes, Jones said. “She doesn't really use a lot of verbiage. And I have not -- I have not really been around her more than two or three times, but the first time that I met her and they had introduced me to her with that request, it was a very easy request to honor. I'm so happy that we did.”

Now, I know what you're thinking: “He's gone too far. He could've just played it straight, written a nice story and gotten on with his life. But no, he had to embellish.”

He's the wild thing about the Oaks. All of that is true.

Nice guys do finish first now and then. And, well, nice fillies. Lovely Maria had trained impeccably coming into the race. She settled into an easy position four-wide off the lead early. Got bumped by eventual runner-up Shook Up after about a half-mile, then went to work a furlong out and won by 2 3/4 lengths. She covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.45, and paid $14.60, 7.80 and 5.40.

“She is just getting better and better every time she runs,” Clark said. “It was exciting. Best day of my life.”

Of course, if you've read this far, you already know that.

The Oaks is often overshadowed, or at least as overshadowed as a race can be with 123,000-plus in the stands. But those of us who watch it every year know that often, the better stories happen on Friday — no matter how many people read them.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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