It was Premier Pegasus and Uncle Mo who stole the show
over the weekend with their powerful Kentucky Derby prep wins, but one other
sophomore runner turned in a performance just as impressive on Saturday. From
2008-2010 trainer Larry Jones and wife Cindy Jones have dominated the Honeybee
Stakes, winning each of the three renewals with their talented fillies Eight
Belles, Just Jenda and No Such Word. A few days before the 2011 running of the
Honeybee Stakes Larry Jones remarked that his star 3-year-old filly Joyful
Victory strongly reminded him of another extremely talented filly that he
trained. That filly was the ill-fated 2008 Kentucky Derby 2nd place
finisher and Honeybee Stakes winner Eight Belles. Jones does not often make
bold statements like that but when he does you’d better listen. In 2007 Jones
told reporters that he thought Curlin was going to win the Breeders’ Cup
Classic after seeing how spectacular he looked in the paddock and he was right,
Curlin romped to victory by more than 4 lengths.
After reading how he compared Joyful Victory favorably to
Eight Belles I immediately set the gray filly as my win pick and once again
Jones proved his word is as good as gold.
The field for the Honeybee Stakes broke cleanly from the
gate and Rigoletta immediately shot to the lead with Norma’s Dream to her
outside and Salty Strike settling behind in third. Grade 2 winner Dixie City
was running comfortably in 4th as Joyful Victory ran another two
lengths back in 5th and Holy Heavens raced second to last. The opening
quarter went in :22.67 and the half in :45.91 with the positions relatively unchanged.
Suddenly Joyful Victory began to move up past the half mile mark with
absolutely no urging from jockey Mike Smith. She was two lengths behind Dixie
City at the ½ mile mark and by the time the ¾ mile mark flew by she was almost
two lengths in the lead.
Joyful Victory swept up along the outside as the field
flew through the turn, seized the lead, rolled through the stretch and blazed
away with ease to win by an ever-widening margin, finally crossing the wire 8 ¾
lengths the best. Holy Heavens ran the race of her life to seize the second
spot after coming from far back, going 5 paths wide off the turn, re-adjusting
her path down the stretch and finishing a clear second by two lengths over
The Jones’s have now won four consecutive Honeybee Stakes
dating back to 2008 but Joyful Victory by far turned in the most impressive
victory of their fabulous quartet. The Tapit filly won in a hand-ride and
proved herself to be a serious Kentucky Oaks threat. Next up could be the Fantasy
Stakes for the fittingly named filly.
[See where Joyful Victory ranks on HRN's Kentucky Oaks Contenders list]
Joyful Victory wasn’t the only Breeders’ Cup loser to win
a stakes race over the weekend as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf 6th
place finisher Wyomia turned in an exceptional run to capture the Suncoast
Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs over a solid field of sophomore fillies.
Racing in 8th down the backstretch Wyomia
began to gain ground approaching the far turn, angling between horses as the
field entered the stretch. Off the turn Wyomia went five wide and drove hard
for Devilish Lady who had opened up more than a length on the lead. Darting to
the inside of Her Smile Wyomia continued to close ground like an express train,
finally running down a game Devilish Lady in the final strides to win by a nose
at the wire. Galloping out past the wire the Grade 3 winner blew right on by
Devilish Lady, opening up 4 lengths as she hit the turn.
Wyomia showed plenty of promise in 2010, winning half of
her four starts, but she looked even better in her 3-year-old debut. She showed
a marked improvement in her closing rally and needed little encouragement to
get up for the win.Impressive maiden winner Royal Delta faltered badly in
the second start of her career, finish 9th of 10 fillies.
The Novel Nine:
– Her Rachel Alexandra Stakes win may not have been the most visually
impressive win of the year among sophomore fillies but she beat a classy field
while not being fully cranked up for the race. Her next probable start will
come in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr.2) on March 26th and you can bet she’ll
be as close to 100% for the race as she’s ever been.
Joyful Victory – Welcome the newest member to the Novel Nine, Joyful Victory
turned in the most dominant win of the season for 3-year-old fillies and did it
while well in hand. Imagine what she’ll do in her next start with all the
conditioning she received in the Honeybee Stakes. Trainer Larry Jones knows how
to train them for the big races as well as anyone and after proving that she
has improved by leaps and bounds in her 2011 debut Joyful Victory could be the
next big horse for the well loved trainer.
With arch nemesis Turbulent Descent now out of the Kentucky Oaks picture there appears
to be nothing standing between her and domination of the West Coast filly
division. Even though she didn’t win the Santa Anita Oaks she still improved
off her Las Virgenes Stakes win. She always shows up and has been the picture
of consistency and talent all year, 1 1/8 miles will be no problem for her.
– I’m still surprised that she lost the Davona Dale. She has once again hit the
work tab going 4 furlongs in :50.85. Her next start is undetermined but it will
surely be a rout race where her come-from-behind style will best be utilized. I
still think she has the potential to be one of the best fillies in the country
and a major Kentucky Oaks threat.
Lightning – The runaway winner of the Davona Dale might be ranked lower
than most people have her ranked on Kentucky Oaks contenders lists but I’m not
sure she will be able to handle 9 furlongs against fillies like Kathmanblue,
Zazu or Dancinginherdreams. She could be showing up next in the Gulfstream Oaks
(gr.2) on April 2nd.
– The talented filly is set to make her next start in the Fair Grounds on
March 26th where she will once again face Kathmanblu. She has
breezed twice since the Rachel Alexandra and her last move was a 6 furlong
bullet that went in 1:12.60. Expect her to be vastly improved off her Rachel
7) It’s Tricky – This undefeated Mineshaft
filly will probably be making her next start against R Heat Lightning in the
Gulfstream Oaks (gr.2) and I personally like her chances. She won the Busher
Stakes by 8 lengths in an absolute laugher on February 20th to
remain undefeated in 3 starts.
8) Pomeroy’s Pistol – She started the year
with a second place finish in the Grade 3 Old Hat Stakes and then handily
defeated Dancinginherdreams in the Forward Gal Stakes before finishing 3rd,
a head behind Dancinginherdreams in the Davona Dale Stakes (g.2). She has been
very consistent this year in graded stakes company but may have trouble winning
as she stretches out in distance.
Lioness – She finally posted her first breeze since finishing third in the
Rachel Alexandra Stakes, going 4 furlongs in :51.20. Where she runs next is up
in the air for now but she has already proved that she belongs with the
classiest fillies in the nation.
It’s getting harder each week to rank the top nine
fillies and I especially hate to leave Wyomia and Holy Heavns off the top nine
this week. Both fillies are deserving of a spot after their respective
performances this weekend but both Pomeroy’s Pistol and Gran Lioness are the
only two fillies they could possibly replace and I feel they have the upper
hand due to the consistent level of top class competition they keep facing.Holy Heavens took a steep step up in class in the
Honeybee Stakes and ran a very good race to get second over Dixie City,
mounting a powerful rally from far back just like she did in her Martha
Washington Stakes. One thing is for sure, she loves Oaklawn Park.
Photo Courtesy of Coady Photography