Trusted Friends for Almost 50 Years
Gray Attempt became tougher to handle in the mornings following his victory in the Smarty Jones Stakes, so trainer Jinks Fires turned to a veteran old friend for help.
It's John Henry Prather, age 66, who's been regularly galloping Gray Attempt as they prepare for Monday's 1 1/16-mile Southwest Stakes. Fires, 78 years old, said he’s been friends with Prather since the early 1970's when both worked as exercise riders for the late Doug Davis, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1969, 1970 and 1975.
Chel-c Bailey was Gray Attempt’s regular exercise rider, and she worked the colt before his 3-year-old debut winning the one-mile Smarty Jones, so the decision wasn't lightly made.
“He was starting to get really tough,” said Fires. “John, he’s an old hand. We were just trying to get him relaxed. Chel-c has done a great job on him so far. I was just trying to get him relaxed, and John has a tendency to be able to do that. He’s been a gallop boy for a lot of years. That’s what older guys with good hands do.”
“He’s a very a good horse,” Prather said. “Since I’ve been getting on him, he’s settled down quite a bit.”
Prather, a long-time Hot Springs resident, stays busy in his retirement age. He also gallops and breezes his eight-horse Oaklawn string. Prather has saddled 90 career winners, according to Equibase, including Silverado Road on Feb. 7.
Fires normally takes Gray Attempt to the track after the renovation break when there is usually less traffic.
“We get my horses out, and then I come over here and get him first thing after the break,” Prather said.
Fires said he has so much confidence in Prather’s hands that he wouldn’t have hesitated to use him on Gray Attempt even if Prather had a horse in the Southwest.
“He would still come over, and I wouldn’t be afraid to put him on him, either,” Fires said. “He’s honest. He would do the best he could do.”
Photo by Coady Photography