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Breeders' Cup 2017

Joyful Victory: Head and Shoulders Above the Rest

Saturday and Sunday produced works from six probably Kentucky Oaks starters beginning on Saturday with Kathmanblu, Lilacs and Lace, Summer Soiree and Zazu as well as Niji’s Grand Girl who is now a possible for the Oaks according to trainer Ken McPeek. On Sunday Joyful Victory and Her Smile were the only two Oaks hopefuls to work.

Leading Oaks contender Kathmanblu turned in a very good work at Churchill Downs Saturday morning, running five furlongs in 1:01.80, galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.20. Trainer Ken McPeek was pleased with the filly’s move saying it was “A nice steady work,” he stated that she got her last quarter in :24. After wins in the Sweetest Chant and Rachel Alexandra (gr.3) Stakes this year Kathmanblu is entering the Oaks off a third place effort in the Ashland Stakes (gr.1) where she ran as the favorite. Two of her most impressive performances have come at Churchill Downs when she finished a fast closing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and won the Golden Rod Stakes on dirt by more than eight lengths twenty two days later.

Niji’s Grand Girl went five furlongs in 1:02 flat to rank as the 17th fastest of 36 horses working the distance. In her last race Niji’s Grand Girl finished third in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr.2) behind Daisy Devine and St. John’s River. She could make her next start in either the Kentucky Oaks on Friday at Churchill Downs or the Edgewood Stakes on turf the same day.

Summer Soiree arrived at Churchill Downs on Thursday afternoon and lost little time in familiarizing herself with the surroundings, taking to the track Saturday morning for her final work before the Kentucky Oaks. The War Front filly ran four furlongs in an easy but very solid :48.80 for trainer Graham Motion. After the work Motion said “She went perfect,” adding “She just went a handy half-mile in :48 and change. I said to shut her down after the wire. I don’t want her galloping out too strong.” After her awesome six furlong work the week before that she completed in an astounding time of 1:10.80 McPeek just wanted to get a quick tightening work into his charge before next Friday.

Zazu stepped things up considerably on Saturday when she rattled off a rapid seven furlong work that went in 1:24.40 at Hollywood Park. John Sadler who trains the daughter of Tapit for The Moss’s was quoted as saying “we’re very pleased” after noting that his trainee went very well throughout her work. Off since finishing second to Turbulent Descent in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr.1) on March 5th,Zazu has been through a serious of stamina building six and seven furlong works during the past month.

Surprise Ashland Stakes (gr.1) winner Lilacs and Lace looked good in her first work over the Churchill Downs dirt strip, going an easy five furlongs in 1:02.60. While training on dirt is no new experience for the three year old daughter of Flower Alley, racing on dirt is so the Kentucky Oaks will be untested waters. Looking at her last three works it’s interesting to note that her previous five furlong work, a :59.00 flat move over Keeneland’s Polytrack, was more than two full seconds faster than her dirt moves.

While only two Oaks contenders worked on Sunday it was easily the most exciting of the two days of works. Joyful Victory made sure and certain that she will easily be one of the top two Oaks selections on Friday when she ran a dazzling five furlongs in :59.20 over a sloppy Churchill Downs surface in company with five year old race mare Payton d’Oro, easily earning the bullet as the fastest work of 20. The work was not only impressive from a timing point of view but it was visually powerful as the beautiful grey daughter of Tapit finished about 7 lengths ahead of her work partner while under wraps. With a wet track possible for Friday trainer Larry Jones feels Joyful Victory really enjoys the sloppy conditions and is not worried about rain in the slightest.

Her Smile also worked on the sloppy track Sunday morning, getting the four furlongs in a very relaxed :50.40. Newly transferred to the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher after being purchased by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, Her Smile is not a definite for the Oaks but still a strong possibility.

Trainer Bob Baffert plans to breeze Plum Pretty around 8:30 in the morning after the renovation break. This is another work I’ve been highly anticipating. Her last work at seven furlongs was just an easy maintenance work after a series of strong four, six and five furlong moves the 25 length Sunland Park Oaks winner completed at Santa Anita. On Tuesday the field for the 137th Kentucky Oaks will be drawn and we will know exactly what kind of field we’ll be looking at Friday.

Photo Courtesy of Coady Photography


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Older Comments about Joyful Victory: Head and Shoulders Above the Rest...

She looks incredible, very confident!
She is my top pick..after watching her work yesterday..ohh yah!
Same here Brian, I've been looking especially at Zazu, she's never run a bad race in her entire career. Holy Heavens and St. John's River could offer some great value as closers, especially Holy Heavens. I do really like Joyful Victory though and she usually sits far enough off the pace that it won’t be an issue for her if there are a bunch of fillies contesting the lead.
It looks to me like there will be a lot of filles on or near the lead in the Oaks ... I am taking a good, hard look at the come from behind types.

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