Hot Lady Joanne Overcomes Dogwood Dilemmas

Favored Lady Joanne overcame a sluggish start to collar High Again near the sixteenth pole en route to a one-length victory in the $167,550 Dogwood Breeders' Cup (gr. III) (VIDEO) for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs Saturday.

It was the third consecutive win for the daughter of Orientate  , who captured the Golden Rod (gr. II) as a 2-year-old last November over the track for trainer Carl Nafzger.

Breaking from the rail for Calvin Borel, 13-10 pick Lady Joanne was off slowly but raced well while in hand along the inside in third before encountering a bit of traffic trouble near the quarter pole. The bay filly angled four wide leaving the furlong marker and caught High Again, who had opened up a one-length lead under David Flores late, in deep stretch. The final time was 1:35 1/5 for the one-turn mile, nearly two seconds off the track mark held by Chilukki since 2000.

Nafzger viewed Lady Joanne as a major contender for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) this year, but she was slow to round into form following a winter break and that goal was placed on the back burner. But Nafzger indicated that she would be facing some of the top fillies in the 3-year-old division before long.

“We got started later on this filly because we had to back off of her,” Nafzger said.  “Then we got started, and everything went good, and ever since it's went good it's been great … She's ran great races, and she's tough, but she's still got to beat the hammers – and there are some hammers out there.”

High Again had every opportunity but finished second, nearly three lengths better than Upcoming Story, who overcame a wide trip for Julien Leparoux to finish third. Lady Joanne and High Again each carried top weight of 123 pounds.

“I could feel that (Borel on Lady Joanne) was looking for room in there, but I tried to open up with my filly and he rode a good race,” said Flores. “My filly gave me a great effort and down the lane she was trying.  She just got beat – she just got outrun.”

Moonee Ponds set the a sharp early pace of :23 1/5 and :46 1/5, holding the lead to the top of the lane when overtaken by the stalking High Again, who rallied four wide off the turn while hitting the six-furlong mark in 1:10. However, she could not handle Lady Joanne once the winner found racing room.

Owned by the Bentley L. Smith Revocable Trust, the homebred Lady Joanne has won three of four starts on the Churchill main track and four of six lifetime. In her only other start in 2007, she won a six-furlong, second-level allowance race at at the Louisville track. She earned $101,698 Saturday to boost her bankroll to $312,634. She is out of the Unbridled mare Oatsee.

Lady Joanne paid $4.60, $2.60 and $2.20. The grade II winner High Again, atoning for a dismal effort in the Kentucky Oaks on a muddy track last out, returned $5 and $3.80. Upcoming Story, third in the La Troienne (gr. III) in her last start, repeated that while paying $3.80. Moonee Ponds, Gatorize, Suaveness, Looky Yonder and Silverinyourpocket completed the order. Girls Pearls scratched.

(Chart, Equibase)

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