01/08/2014 12:00AM

2013 Eclipse Awards: Joyful Victory

photo by: Shigeki Kikkawa

Joyful Victory raced sparingly as a 5-year-old in 2013, yet the handful of starts ranked among the best of her career and made her a worthy Eclipse Award finalist as outstanding older female.

A gray daughter of Tapit, Joyful Victory won 3 of 5 starts in 2013, all for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms and trainer Larry Jones. Joyful Victory was ridden all season by Rosie Napravnik, including her first start of the year Jan. 26 at Sam Houston.

Joyful Victory traveled often and was an appropriate drawing card for the inaugural running of the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic. Joyful Victory arrived in Texas with a reputation as a road warrior. She already had started at seven tracks and in 12 graded stakes, winning two and placing in seven others.

The first Houston Ladies Classic attracted six runners, and Joyful Victory was the class of the field. She was favored at 3-2 in the 1 1/16-mile race. The outcome was never in doubt.

Napravnik put Joyful Victory on the lead, slowed down the tempo, and broke it open in the stretch. She drew away by 4 1/4 lengths, racing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.30, shattering the old Sam Houston track record of 1:42.74 by .44 of a second. The only thing missing from her résumé was a Grade 1 win.

Jones gave Joyful Victory a freshening and trained her for a return to Santa Anita, where the previous fall she had finished second in the Zenyatta Stakes. Jones hoped she could improve her placing and win her first Grade 1 in the Santa Margarita Stakes on March 16.

Favored at even-money against four rivals, Joyful Victory delivered the highest-rated race of her career. She set the pace, dictated the tempo until the top of the stretch, and then left her rivals in the dust. In front by a length on the far turn, Joyful Victory shot clear. She opened up by four lengths at the eighth pole and coasted home.

It was a special win by a special mare, her first Grade 1 victory. Joyful Victory ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.53 and earned a career-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure. It would be the highest Beyer of the year by an older female around two turns.

Another road trip for Joyful Victory took her to Belmont Park for the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap on May 27. Joyful Victory was the even-money favorite. Compromised by an early duel on a fast pace, she retreated to fifth. She misfired.

Joyful Victory needed a summer confidence-builder, and Jones found the right spot. Monmouth Park hosted the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher on July 28. If the real Joyful Victory showed up, she would run away.

The real Joyful Victory showed up and ran away. She won by 7 1/2 lengths as the 7-10 favorite.

In fall, Joyful Victory returned to Santa Anita. The plan was to start Sept. 28 in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes and remain at Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

A third-place finish in the Zenyatta fell short of the mark, and two days later Joyful Victory was retired from racing. In 2013, she won three races and $579,600 from five starts.

Over four campaigns, Joyful Victory compiled an outstanding race record – seven wins and earnings of $1,252,679 from 20 starts. She started at 10 different racetracks, placed in 12 of 16 graded stakes starts, and later was sold for $2 million as a broodmare.