(WHAS11) - Looking at Larry Jones you couldn't tell last year was one of the most difficult of his life. He still carries a smile. He still gallops his horses. He still loves the sport. But at the end of the year he's walking away from it. He says he's retiring,
"We've achieved about all of this that we feel like we had to prove to ourselves. God gave me a desire and heart to do this. He's given me the desire to do something else," says Jones.
It was nearly a year ago when tragedy struck. After crossing the wire second in last year's derby. Jones' horse Eight Belles broke both front ankles and had to be put down. Derby Saturday is the first time he's been back on the track since that fateful day.
"Jeanine Edwards bless her heart. She asked me the other day. What are you going to think when you go by that spot for the very first time. I said man I haven't even thought about it. Now I'll think about it every day. It just went. I looked across and there it goes. We learn. We'll do our thing. We'll always remember."< /p>
While Jones says he will remember, there's no doubt others wouldn't let him forget. Some claimed he used illegal drugs on Eight Belles, which he was later found to be innocent of. Then right after the Derby someone tried to sabotage his barn.
"We started having some tampering going on with our barn within a month afterwards. Someone got to my pony and blistered his mouth and cut him loose. I said if someone has poisoned this pony, he's paying the price for something someone is mad at me about. This horse has not done anything to anybody. Then I knew that night I would quit instantly."
Jones announced he would soon retire only to come back this year because he feels he has a special horse in Derby contender Friesan Fire. It's the third straight run for the roses for this Hopkinsville native. While Jones has had heartbreak at Churchill Downs he's also had some success. In 2007 his horse Hard Spun finished second in the Derby and last year he won the Oaks with Proud Spell.