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Breeders' Cup 2017

Joyful Tidings: The Novel Nine

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 Dixie City.
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:

1)      Kathmanblu – 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.    
2)      Joyful VictoryWelcome 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.
3)      Zazu – 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.
4)      Dancinginherdreams – 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.
5)      R Heat 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.
6)      Inglorious 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 Alexandra performance.
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.
9)      Gran 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.
Honorable Trio:
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


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Older Comments about Joyful Tidings: The Novel Nine...

Thanks Andrew! So am I, they should both be much sharper than they were in the Rachel Alexandra. I'm especially curious to see what Inglorious does.
Great reading Brian. I would have the top 6 in exactly the same order. I am definitely looking forward to Kathmanblu and Inglorious II in the Louisiana Oaks. Joyful Victory was really impressive, particularly because the pace was pretty hot and she was sitting relatively close to it. Larry Jones is a great trainer.
Thanks Joe, I'll be looking forward to it as well! I was very surprised at th low Beyer as well, she deserved much higher marks in my opinion. I'm right with you on It's Tricky, I think she'll be more than a match for R Heat Lightning.
Agreed Joe ... I love It's Tricky's chances against R Heat in the Bonnie Miss.
Brian, you're doing a great job chronicling the run-up to the Oaks. Keep up the great work (and great to hear you'll be in for the Wood. looking forward to meeting you). I cannot believe Joyful Victory's Beyer came back so low. It sure seemed like Beyer and co. would give her more respect off of that romp. Clearly, she's a player in the Fantasy and the Oaks. No quibble at all with you ranking her second. Personally, I can't wait for the Bonnie Miss. Expecting It's Tricky to run R Heat Lightning into the ground. Wide-open division, for the moment.
She was solid, good late energy, but I do not think she belongs in the Novel Nine. The Ashland will probably be next for her.
Indeed, he must have known she was sitting on a huge race. I wasn't sure I wanted to put her so high at first but Oaklawn has been the launching pad for some of the best Kentucky Oaks contenders out there for years. Joyful Victory really impressed me with how sharp she was after four months away, I can't wait to see what she does in her next start with this prep under her belt. What did you think of Wyomia?
I guess when Larry Jones says his filly is training fantastically, we better pay attention. Huge performance ... she went from just outside my top 10 into my my top 5 like a rocket, although not quite as high as you have her ;-)

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