'Horse for Course' Joint Effort Wins Dogwood

(from Churchill Downs report)
Joint Effort, ridden by Rene Douglas, opened a clear lead in the stretch and held off a late surge from Ready to Please and Victorina to score a one-length victory in Saturday's $167,850 Dogwood Breeders' Cup (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs.

A true "horse for the course" who improved her career record at Churchill Downs to 4-3-0 in seven races, Joint Effort made it successive graded stakes wins over the track. The Florida-bred daughter of Runaway Groom owned by Donald Dizney won the La Troienne (gr. III) on Kentucky Derby Day in her last start. She improved her career record to 5-3-1 in 13 races and the $101,148 winner's share of the purse raised her bankroll to $416,574.

Saddled by Churchill's leading trainer, Dale Romans, the favored Joint Effort covered the one-turn mile over a "fast" track in 1:35.49 and paid $5.40, $3.20, and $2.40. Ready to Please, ridden by Rafael Bejarano and trained by Todd Pletcher, rallied from sixth to gain the runner-up spot and paid $3 and $2.60. Victorina, a Northern California invader trained by Greg Gilchrist and ridden by Russell Baze, closed strongly through the stretch to gain third and paid $3.40.

The victory pulled Romans, a Louisville native who has won seven training titles at his hometown track, closer to the milestone of 1,000 career victories. With the victory by Joint Effort, Romans' career win total stood at 997. The victory in the Dogwood Breeders' Cup was the tenth Churchill Downs stakes win for Romans.

"Rene said she just drug him around the whole way," said Romans. "She loves this racetrack, and she's coming into her own. She keeps getting better and better."

Coronado's Vision burst to the lead from her rail post under Mark Guidry, but Douglas positioned Joint Effort just off the leader on the run down the backstretch. The leader established honest early fractions of :23.25 to the quarter and :46.19 for the half-mile. Ready to Please saved ground between rivals in the middle of the pack, while Victorina, who broke last in the field of nine, remained well back in the early going.

Douglas turned Joint Effort loose on the far turn, and she quickly overtook Coronado's Vision to claim the lead. As Joint Effort made that move, Bejarano sent Ready to Please in pursuit while Baze and Victorina launched her late charge. Joint Effort was clear as the field turned for home and opened her advantage to 1 ½-lengths in mid-stretch before Ready to Please and Victorina, who rallied six-wide, gradually chipped away at that advantage but never seriously threatened to overtake the winner.

"I tried to settle, but she had broke on top," said Douglas, who won his first Churchill Downs stakes race. "I didn't want to choke her and do something that she didn't want to do. She was doing it comfortable and, in the end, she had enough to hold on."

Coronado's Vision faded to fourth, followed by Humorous Gal, Coolwind, Performing Diva, Joyful Rhapsody, and Lake Alice.

(Chart, Equibase)