01/06/2015 1:15PM

2014 Eclipse Awards: Judy the Beauty

Debbie Roma

One year after coming within a half-length of winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, Judy the Beauty followed through in the 2014 renewal to put herself in a prime position to reign atop her division in Eclipse Award balloting.

With jockey Mike Smith aboard, Judy the Beauty gamely held off longshot Better Lucky to capture the Nov. 1 BC Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita by a head, a victory that capped a well-managed campaign for the 5-year-old mare.

Wesley Ward, who owns and trains Judy the Beauty, watched the Breeders’ Cup from home in Florida because of family obligations but was very much in California in spirit.

“When she won, I just started thinking about how blessed I’ve been in this game,” Ward said this month from Florida.

The 2014 campaign for Judy the Beauty essentially started minutes after she was beaten a half-length by two-time champion Groupie Doll in the 2013 BC Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.

“We rested her up with the intent of carefully picking out our races to have her at a peak for the Breeders’ Cup,” said Ward.

Based at Gulfstream Park in Florida, the mare was flown to Santa Anita to make her 5-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Las Flores, a March 9 race she won by 4 3/4 lengths as a 1-2 favorite. She then was sent to Keeneland, where she was 3-5 in winning the April 12 Madison Stakes not only for the first Grade 1 victory of her career but the first for Ward, a former Eclipse-winning apprentice jockey who began training in 1991.

Three weeks later, Judy the Beauty incurred her only defeat of the year when finishing an uncharacteristically dull fourth as the favorite behind Midnight Lucky in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on the May 3 Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill. Regrouped thereafter, she did not resurface on a work tab again until a June 30 breeze at Churchill.

Ward then sent her to Del Mar to start Aug. 17 in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo, a 6 1/2-furlong Polytrack race she won by 1 1/4 lengths. Ward then brought her back to Keeneland and trained her up to the Breeders’ Cup, using a series of turf works to hone her to a fine edge.

In the seven-furlong BC Filly and Mare Sprint, Judy the Beauty enjoyed a beautiful stalking trip from the outside, moving from fifth down the backstretch to collar the front-running Stonetastic near the eighth pole. She quickly sped off, only to have Better Lucky, a 23-1 shot, loom menacingly to her outside. Judy the Beauty then dug down in the final 100 yards to win by a head, with Thank You Marylou finishing another 3 1/2 lengths behind in third. Judy the Beauty was the lukewarm 3-1 favorite in the field of 10.

Judy the Beauty “is a ‘house horse,’ which makes it that much better,” said Ward. “She has been extremely classy and consistent from the first day I’ve had her. It’d be a great honor if we could get an Eclipse with her.”

For the year, Judy the Beauty won four of five starts for earnings of $896,365. Starting with a maiden win at Keeneland in April of her 2-year-old year, her career totals stand at nine wins and seven seconds from 18 starts for earnings of $1,662,122.

Judy the Beauty, by Ghostzapper and out of Holy Blitz, by Holy Bull, was bred in Ontario by Adena Springs. Ward bought her for $20,000 as a yearling in 2010 and twice tried to sell her at auction but withdrew her both times.

After the Breeders’ Cup, Judy the Beauty was sent for a break to Keeneland, one of Ward’s primary year-round bases. She resumed training Jan. 1 and will be pointed to her first start as a 6-year-old in the Madison in early April. Ward said he hopes to have her primed again for a return to the BC Filly and Mare Sprint at Keeneland next fall.