Photo: Benoit photo
It seems like a long time ago that a young Joyful Victory went off favored in the Kentucky Oaks. Things did not go her way that May afternoon nearly two years ago, but the young filly, once so highly regarded, has now grown into a formidable five-year-old mare. The well-traveled daughter of Tapit tipped her hand that 2013 might be a big year with an impressive win in her first start of the season in Sam Houston’s Houston Ladies Classic, and today she built on that momentum with another overpowering victory, this time in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita. Not only was the victory the first grade 1 win of her career, but the beautiful gray Fox Hill Farms runner also became racing’s newest millionaire.
Sent off as the 11-10 favorite for trainer, Larry Jones, Joyful Victory may not have needed any help to beat her competition today, but she was also not about to pass up on a great opportunity. Off to a good break under rider, Rosie Napravnik, the pair capitalized when the rail opened wide up going into the clubhouse turn. Accepting a little nudge from Rosie, Joyful Victory shot to the lead, and could not have looked more comfortable on the early lead.
Minor resistance was offered by Great Hot, but the gray mare was just toying with that one. Her main competition, More Chocolate and Brushed by a Star, both made a move on the far turn, but the winner kicked clear when asked by her rider, and the stretch run became little more than a stroll in the park. Final time for the nine panels was a solid 1:49.53, as Joyful Victory reached the wire four lengths the best over More Chocolate.
It may have been a long time coming for that first grade 1 victory, but not for a lack of good racing from the new millionaire. She had previously finished second twice and third once in Grade 1 stakes, and even in that fourth place finish in the Kentucky Oaks, she was only beaten just over three lengths. A seven length winner of the Grade 2 Fantasy back in 2011, Joyful Victory now has broken through in grade 1 racing, and the way she is running now, it would be easy to imagine her winning more.
Ridden by Rosie Napravnik for only the third time, Joyful Victory seems to like the pairing. In their first run together, a Southern California debut for both horse and rider, Joyful Victory finished a very good second to Love and Pride in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes last fall, also at Santa Anita. Reunited in Texas for her seasonal debut, Joyful Victory not only won the $400,000 race at Sam Houston, but she set a track record in the process, while earning a career high Beyer of 98. That career high could be in jeopardy though, after today’s effort.
Jones, obviously enjoying the rare trip to Southern California had high praise for his star’s female pilot. “She'll be in the history books. She has a gift for getting the best out of horses,” remarked Jones about Rosie.
That should mean the pairing will get more opportunities together to improve upon the mare’s solid lifetime record of 17-6-5-3. Judging from Joyful Victory’s first two races of 2013, they would seem to be a pair destined to do good things together.