Early in the morning of April 28, two days before Joanie's Catch would be asked to take on the toughest task of her life in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), the playful chestnut was nodding her head and nibbling the frame of her stall door at Churchill Downs as an onlooker attempted to snap her photo.
“Joanie, stop that!” said Joanie Needell, for whom the filly was named. Needell, who said her job is to “keep her staff and the horses happy,” is the sister of Barry Rose, the trainer of Joanie’s Catch. The daughter of First Tour—Caught Speeding, by Saint Ballado, is a Florida homebred campaigned by Rose’s family stable, and is one of the longshots in the Oaks field with morning line odds of 30-1.
“I thought she was one of the worst ones in the barn, and that’s why I named her after my sister,” Rose joked. Joanie’s Catch, who boasts a seasoned record of 2-6-6 from 18 starts and earnings of $374,790, has won just one stakes race, but she has placed in 11 others, including this year’s Forward Gal (gr. II), Davona Dale (gr. II), and Old Hat (gr. III) Stakes.
The Rose family, which has been in the Thoroughbred business for more than six decades, is no stranger to stakes success. When Barry and Joanie’s father Harold ran the stable, they owned a millionaire horse named Hal’s Hope, who scored his big wins in the 2000 Florida Derby (gr. I) and the 2002 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. I).
The family also owned Hal’s Image, a two-time stakes winner in 2005. The Roses currently keep around 24 mares at Get Away Farm near Lowell, Fla., and breed many of them to Hal’s Image, who stands at the farm. Barry and Joanie Rose took over the stable when their father died in 2003 at age 92. The veteran owner had been inducted into the Calder Hall of Fame in 1997.
Joanie’s Slew is special to the Rose family, as she is the first filly they have ever sent to the Oaks.
“You’re not going to want to stand in front of her and not pay attention to her,” said Barry Rose, indicating the filly is known to get feisty from time to time. “She loves attention and loves cookies. Joanie also loves to be on the track; she’s only feisty when she’s not.”
When asked why Joanie’s Catch was ready to face the Oaks field, Rose noted, “She’s faced all these horses already and has run really nice against all of them.”
The filly was second to Amen Hallelujah by 6 1/4 lengths in the Feb. 27 Davona Dale, and third to Quiet Temper in last year’s Boyd Gaming’s Delta Princess Stakes Powered by Youbet.com (gr. III) at Delta Downs.
Rose thinks Joanie’s Catch, who has been knocking on the door of graded stakes success for the last two years, might finally get her turn to shine in the Oaks.
“Joanie is right on schedule with her training and has performed well, running second or third in all her graded starts this year as a 3-year-old,” said Rose. “She has finished ahead of She be Wild, Ailalea, Bickersons, Sassy Image, Switch, Christine Daae, and behind Amen Hallelulujah in her last two races at Gulfstream--the Bonnie Miss and the Davona Dale.
“She’s always right there; she doesn’t like to give up.”