Cleon Jones catches them all in Bertram F. Bongard Stakes

Friday, September 20th, 2019

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Gold Square’s Cleon Jones, by Tale of the Cat, rallied four-wide in the stretch to catch three fellow New York-bred juveniles in the final strides for his first career stakes victory in Belmont’s $150,000 Bertram F. Bongard on Friday.

Before lining up for seven-furlong Bongard, Cleon Jones had been improving steadily with added distance over three career starts for trainer Jeremiah Englehart.

Not impactful when he finished fifth to Listentoyourheart, eventual Aspirant Stakes winner, in their shared five-furlong debut at Belmont on June 23, Cleon Jones rebounded next out to break his maiden at six panels, coming from off the pace to prevail by 3 1/2 convincing lengths at the Spa on July 28.

Spotted next in the 6 1/2-furlong Funny Cide on Saratoga New York Showcase Day, Cleon Jones ended up further off the leaders than ever before. Though he finished well, the colt ended up with too much to do in the stretch and finished second, 4 3/4 lengths behind City Man.

City Man, also returning in the Bongard, was the even-money post time favorite based on his dominant Funny Cide performance. Cleon Jones, who was partnered with Irad Ortiz, Jr. for the first time, was let go at 6-1 odds, fourth choice in the field of five.

Cleon Jones raced closer to the pace this time, traveling two-wide in fourth along the backstretch just three lengths behind pacesetter Three Jokers. Speedster Moonachie (3-2), who got off a step slow, rushed up into contention to press the pace in second, while City Man in third at the rail provided a target for Clean Jones.

While Three Jokers clocked the fractions of 23.16 and 46.71, the order remained unchanged, but the field grew more compact through the turn. Moonache advanced to engage Three Jokers and Cleon Jones drew even with City Man.

The front four fanned out for the stretch run and at the furlong marker each seemed to be in with a chance. Three Jokers clung to the rail, Moonache vied two-wide, City Man rallied in the three path and Cleon Jones revved up outside them all.

NYRA/Susie Raisher

Moonachie dropped out the fight in late stretch, but Cleon Jones lengthened his stride and closed best of all, just getting up for the win by a head. Three Jokers held on bravely for second just a nose ahead of City Man in third. Moonachie, stablemate to Cleon Jones, finished fourth and Theitalianamerican completed the order of finish.

“I was in a good position throughout and just followed the instructions of Jeremiah [Englehart],” said Irad Ortiz, Jr. “He told me [Cleon Jones] likes to be out in the clear and he was responding very well every time I asked him. He was coming so I just kept riding him hard, and he got there on time.”

Assessing the performance of both the winner and Moonachie, Englehart said, “Originally, I liked the spot Moonachie was in. I told Irad that he’d have to get Cleon into the clear to get his best running. It seemed like he was able to do that early on in the race. Moonachie probably just got a little compromised by the start and maybe came back a little quick. I thought they both ran well.”

Englehart added, “Cleon has been a good horse from the start, and we had high hopes for him in his first start. It’s just funny how some of these baby races work out sometimes.”

Cleon Jones was bred by John and Sandy Crowe’s Empire Equines LLC and is the most recent reported foal out of Whispering, a Kentucky-bred winner by Quiet American who is batting a thousand as a broodmare with two winners from two to start. Cleon Jones’ third dam, multiple group winner Martessa, was mare of the year and champion 3-year-old filly in her native Germany.

Englehart and Gold Square bought Cleon Jones at the OBS March sale this spring for $325,000. “[At the sale], Cleon Jones was such a good looking colt,” Englehart said. “Tale of the Cat is getting a little long in the tooth, but Eddie Woods does such a nice job with his babies. He was one that looked the part. He had a nice, strong hind end to him, and I thought he’d be a nice racehorse. It seems like the longer the better for him, which is kind of surprising.”


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