Joyful Victory had already established herself as a Kentucky Oaks contender for trainer Larry Jones when she scored in the Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) by 8 3/4 lengths with Smith aboard at Oaklawn March 12.
“She was even more impressive this time (than in winning the March 12 Honeybee Stakes, gr. III)," Smith said. "She was training for it, ready for it and Mr. Jones wanted me to make sure she got something out of it and we did, without squeezing the lemon too much. We squeezed it a little today and it was good. We gotta make sure there is enough juice in there.”
Just four contested the Fantasy, Oaklawn's 3-year-old filly showcase, and there were just three betting interests after the scratch of outsider Jelly Cable.
Explosive Disco, part of the Benard Chatters-trained entry, cleared off to a 2 1/4-length lead in the opening quarter mile as Arienza tugged at Ramon Dominguez in second during a :22.89 opening quarter-mile.
Arienza, a daughter of Giant's Causeway out of the two-time champion Jade Hunter mare Azeri, was bet down to 9-10. Tracking the pacesetter down the backstretch through a quick :46.60 half-mile, Arienza responded when allowed to go on the final turn to take over with a little more than a quarter-mile to run.
But Joyful Victory, stalking in third for Smith, was on the move as well, drawing even with Arienza leaving the turn. The match race, such as it was, did not last long at all. Under mild urging, Joyful victory sped to a two-length advantage at the eighth pole and drew off while ridden out.
"There's not much difference in distance to her next race, but this filly can run all day," Jones said in reference to the upcoming Kentucky Oaks May 6. "I don't think we've gotten to the bottom of her yet, and really the way she's going, I hope we don't start getting there 'til Breeders' Cup time. Of course she's liable to have to work harder next time."
It was the third Fantasy win for Fox Hill Farm. The previous two were Eight Belles in 2008 and Round Pond in 2005. The former, like Joyful Victory, was trained by Jones and went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) but tragically suffered a fatal injury while pulling up. Round Pond went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) in 2006.Jones compared Joyful Victory to the ill-fated Eight Belles.
"It is uncanny how much she's like Eight Belles, and it's more than just because they are both grays," he said. "I was looking at her the other day and I said I know she was born the year (Eight Belles) died, but it's almost like she consumed her. It's like she's come back."
He said Joyful victory would be shipped to Kentucky to prepare for the Oaks.
"We will see how many others we send there later this week," Jones added. "I think we will probably stay here a few days after the meet. You don't want to get into all that hullabaloo (at Churchill Downs) too early. We will look to breeze her once up there, although that's the beauty of being at Oaklawn is that the tracks are so similar there's very little adjustment that has to be made.”
“I couldn't be more excited," said Rick Porter, owner of Fox Hill Farms." I've got two great fillies (Havre de Grace and Joyful Victory) and the best trainer in the country.”
Arienza, trained by Dan Peitz, tasted defeat for the first time while finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of Holy Heavens. Explosive Disco was last.
“It's disappointing," said Peitz, also considering the Kentucky Oaks. "How can it not be? I know Larry's filly is very nice, but it's still disappointing."
Bred in Ontario by William D. Graham, Joyful Victory is out of the Wild Again mare Wild Lucy Black. Tom McGreevy, agent for Fox Hill, purchased the Fantasy winner for $140,000 at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Joyful Victory began her career with a neck victory over maidens at Delaware Park last September. In her next start, the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park Oct. 9, Joyful Victory ran third, 5 1/4 lengths behind the victorious A Z Warrior. She went on to run an encouraging fifth in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).
The Fantasy effort was Joyful Victory's third win in five lifetime starts. She boosted her earnings to $380,100 with the winning purse of $180,000.
Carrying 121 pounds, Joyful Victory paid $3.20 to win and combined with Arienza for a $4.40 exacta. There was no place or show wagering.