MOLLY PITCHER | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16 MILES
Odds-on favorite Joyful Victory returned to her winning form with a front-running 7 ½-length humbling of four opponents in the $195,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes July 28 at Monmouth Park.
The race was significantly altered by trainer Mark Casse's scratch Funny Proposition, who was coming off a sharp five-length upset of champion Royal Delta in the Fleur De Lis Handicap.
Without her to contend with, Joyful Victory took command in the Molly Pitcher going into the clubhouse turn with Rosie Napravnik aboard. They were never headed, leaving the competition behind on the far turn while completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:46.09 over a track rated fast.
It was the second graded stakes win in a row on the card for Napravnik, who booted home Irish-bred Starstruck in the $150,000 Matchmaker Stakes.
Joyful Victory was coming off an uncharacteristic fifth-place finish in the Ogden Phipps Handicap as the even-money favorite at Belmont Park May 27, beaten 11 ½ lengths by the victorious Tiz Miz Sue. Larry Jones felt the loss was mainly due to the 5-year-old Tapit mare's preference for two turns.
Back in her comfort zone after a pair of bullet moves at Churchill Downs, Fox Hill Farms' striking gray mare was never challenged after taking the early lead from Successful Song. She led the stalking Successful Song, Lady Samuri, and Wine Princess through pedestrian quarter mile fractions of :24.14, :47.85, and 1:12.47.
As Joyful Victory began to edge away on the turn, Wine Princess and Successful Song came under pressure and Lady Samuri, the only one with a shot at catching the leader, drifted out straightening for home. Joyful Victory opened up a six-length advantage at mid-stretch and cantered home under wraps by Napravnik far in front.
"She was just cruising around there today," Napravnik said. "In her last race, the pace was really fast and she was down on the inside so there were no breathers. Today she was able to do her own thing on the lead. It's nice to see her back on her 'A' game."
Bred in Ontario by William D. Graham out of the Wild Again mare Wild Lucy, Joyful Victory has banked $1,222,679 in her career while compiling a record of 7-5-3 in 19 races. She has won six of 11 starts at the 1 1/16-mile distance.
Joyful Victory began the year with stylish victories in the inaugural Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston Race Park and the Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita Park prior to the Ogden Phipps. Her previous graded stakes wins came in the Honeybee and Fantasy as a 3-year-old at Oaklawn Park, and she has prior grade I placings in the Mother Goose Stakes at 3 and the Zenyatta Stakes last year.
"This horse has such an amazing cruising speed that she forces other horses to run harder to keep up," said Jones, who previously won the Molly Pitcher along with wife Cindy in 2010 with Just Jenda. "The Breeders' Cup [Ladies Classic Nov. 1] is our goal and this race has been circled on our calendar to get there. We'll go next in the Zenyatta at Santa Anita [Sept. 28]."
Wine Princess ran on for second under Shaun Bridgmohan, 7 ¼ lengths ahead of the fading Lady Samuri, whose four-race winning streak came to an end. Winiliscious was fourth and Successful Song trailed.
Carrying top weight of 123 pounds, Joyful Victory paid $3.40, $2.40, and $2.10 while topping a $7.40 exacta, Wine Princess, a daughter of Horses of the Year Ghostzapper and Azeri, returned $2.80 and $2.20. Lady Samuri, who was coming off an 8 ¼-length romp in Monmouth's listed Lighthouse Stakes June 30, paid $2.60 with Abel Mariano aboard.