Joyful Victory and Sassy Image top a strong field of 11 fillies and mares in the $100,000 Gardenia Stakes (gr. III) Aug. 11 at Ellis Park, the first race back in Kentucky for jockey Robby Albarado since his May 4 arrest in a domestic violence dispute.
Albarado, who has ridden since then at Arlington Park and Colonial Downs, is cleared to ride in Kentucky on a temporary restraining order from a Franklin County Circuit Court judge while his legal issues are resolved. He is scheduled for sentencing in Louisville Aug. 14 on a July 13 conviction of fourth-degree assault.
Albarado was aboard Sassy Image last year when she won the Humana Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, one of two grade I victories for the 5-year-old daughter of Broken Vow . She hasn't won since taking the Princess Rooney (gr. I) in July of 2011 for owner Jerry Romans, but turned in her most promising performance in the past three starts since then when she finished second in Churchill's seven-furlong Roxelana Stakes June 30. Dale Romans trains; Sassy Image drew post 11 and carries a 120-pound impost.
Craig B. Singer's Salty Strike was the solid 3 1/2-length winner of the Roxelana and came into that race off a May 25 victory in the Prairie Rose Stakes at Prairie Meadows. She seeks her first graded victory since taking the June 4 Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) for trainer Ken McPeek. The 4-year-old Smart Strike filly carries 120 pounds, including jockey Victor LeBron, from the 1 hole.
Also assigned 120 pounds is Joyful Victory, a 4-year-old Tapit filly trained by Larry Jones who has not raced since March, when she was third in the Azeri Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park after winning the Feb. 12 Tiffany Lass Stakes at Fair Grounds. Gabriel Saez will be in the saddle aboard Fox Hill Farms' multiple graded stakes winner from post 3.
William S. and Graydon Patterson's Juanita, the 124-pound highweight in the field, also comes off a loss, last of five in the May 28 Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) after bobbling at the break. One race prior, however, she earned her biggest victory in the May 4 La Troienne Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill, defeating St. John's River, Plum Pretty, and Absinthe Minded with a three-wide rally to win by two lengths. Jockey Malcolm Franklin rides the 2011 Indiana Oaks (gr. II) victress for trainer Mike Maker from post 2.
Absinthe Minded, another of eight assigned 120 pounds, was fifth in the July 29 Molly Pitcher Stakes (gr. II) at Monmouth Park and seeks her first win for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas since taking the Feb. 18 Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn, a race she also won in 2011. The Briland Farm runner leaves from the 5 hole under jockey Calvin Borel.
$100,000 Gardenia Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, approximate post 4:10 p.m. EDT), fillies & mares 3YO & UP, one mile (dirt)