April 10, 2011

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HOT SPRINGS, AR (Sunday, April 10, 2011) – Following in the footsteps of such recent winners as  Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and Joyful Victory Fantasychampion Blind Luck, Fox Hill Farm’s Joyful Victory stamped herself as one of the top 3-year-old fillies in the country with an eye-catching victory in Sunday’s $300,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park.

The gray daughter of Tapit will now try to become the third straight Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner to emerge from the Hot Springs track.

The Fantasy became a stage for a match-up with the impeccably bred and 2-for-2 Arienza and Joyful Victory, the winner of the Honeybee Stakes (G3) last month. When Arienza and jockey Ramon Dominguez pounced first on the pacesetter Explosive Disco early on the far turn, the battle was quickly joined by Joyful Victory and Mike Smith. Just as quickly, the fight was over as Joyful Victory pulled clear in mid-stretch and finished the 1 1/16th miles in a handy 1:44.74.

Joyful Victory, the 3-5 favorite, finished seven lengths clear of Arienza and paid $3.20. Holy Heavens finished third. There was no place or show wagering. The winning margin matched the record set by Escena in 1996.

“She was even more impressive this time,” said Smith, who was also aboard for the Honeybee win. “She was training for it, ready for it and (trainer) Mr. (Larry) 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.”

It was the third Fantasy win for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm. His previous two were Eight Belles in 2008 and Round Pond in 2005. The former, like Joyful Victory, was trained by Larry Jones and went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby (G1) but tragically suffered a fatal injury while pulling up. Round Pond went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic in 2006.

“It is uncanny how much she's like Eight Belles, and it's more than just because they are both grays,” said Jones, who also won his third Fantasy, his first coming with Ruby’s Reception in 2003. “I was looking at her the other day and I said I know she was born the year she died, but it's almost like she consumed her. It's like she's come back.”

The Racing Festival of the South continues Wednesday with the $100,000 Redbud Stakes. First post is 1:30 p.m.