11/20/2014 3:49PM

Breeders Crown: JK She’salady vies for a perfect year

Mark Hall/USTA
JK She'salady has never lost in 11 career starts and goes for a Breeders Crown win on Saturday at the Meadowlands.

JK She’salady is making history. The precocious 2-year-old pacing filly has never been bested on the track and is seemingly one Breeders Crown victory at the Meadowlands on Saturday night from becoming the first ever 2-year-old filly to achieve Horse of the Year honors.

With a flawless record in 11 career starts and career earnings of $633,330, JK She’salady has done everything right. Despite an off-the-pace racing style that lends to traffic trouble, the daughter of Art Major-Presidential Lady has hardly faced any anxious moments while at times displaying flashes of brilliance.

JK She’salady would be considered the horse of a lifetime for any trainer, no less the 33-year-old Nancy Johansson, a virtual newbie as a professional conditioner with fewer than 300 career starters. But Johansson is no ordinary young trainer, having learned under the tutelage of her father, Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter.

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“Maybe not so quickly in my career, but I thought I’d get there at some point,” said Johansson about her rapid ascent in the training world. “That [JK She’salady] would come along now is just a blessing.”

Johansson speaks in glowing terms of JK She’salady and rightfully so. She fittingly won the rich She’s A Great Lady stake at Mohawk and the 3 Diamonds at Woodbine by powering past her foes in the third quarter of her races. Perhaps her most impressive effort came in the Eternal Camnation at Mohawk where she circled the field and paced by a field of reasonable quality with virtual ease.

Even a recent driver change to Tim Tetrick prior to the Breeders Crown made no difference. She came from off the pace while uncovered and simply left the talented Sassa Hanover and others in her dust.

“I actually thought about this (her flaws) with the driver change, ‘is there anything I need to tell Timmy (Tetrick),’ but she does everything right. She’s sound, she eats, she takes care of herself, she’s relaxed, and she doesn’t get nervous,” said Johansson.

It is difficult to argue with perfection, but some have cited her closing style as a sign of weakness in a sport that is dominated by early speed. Surely, no matter how talented, JK She’salady cannot continue to live first-over or hope to avoid traffic trouble each time she steps on the track.

“In the beginning it was because I like my horses to come charging at the end and get beat rather than being on the front and get beat while tiring late,” said Johansson about JK She’salady’s racing style. “I always wanted her to finish strong. Do I want her to be first up every week? No, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

“She always trains on the front end. It’s not like she can’t be there or she is goofy or something like that. When she trains in a race bike, she is always the one on the front end. If the gate folds and Timmy (Tetrick) needs to be on the front end with her it is not a problem.”

While $500,000 is on the line in Saturday’s Breeders Crown, it could be just another night on the job for 3-5 morning line favorite JK She’salady. With Tetrick back in the bike from post four for owners the 3 Brothers Stable, JK She’salady is basically facing the same young ladies she has been beating up on all year long.

Elimination winner (by virtue of a disqualification) Heart Major is one of the few fillies that have yet to face the talented favorite. Heart Major (post four), who has won five of eight career races, has displayed a penchant for early speed, which could give her a tactical advantage on JK She’salady.

Sassa Hanover is another logical contender, though her outside draw in post nine could present some issues. The Ron Burke trainee has won nine of 12 races in her first season on the track and was impressive enough to lure Yannick Gingras off his regular assignment on JK She’salady.

While the target will be on JK She’salady’s back, Johansson expects nothing less than victory and knows she has her fabulous filly to thank for the wonderful ride in 2014.

“It’s horse racing. Moni Maker got beat, Sebastian K gets beat, and Foiled Again gets beat, so it’s not the end of the world if she gets beat. I don’t think she is in a position where she will get beat, but it could happen. I don’t think it will though,” said Johansson with a smile.

“To just be around a horse like her every day, like I told Marcus (Johansson, husband) last night before we went to sleep, I just wish I could thank her. But you can’t really thank her and know that she knows you are thanking her. So I guess the best I can do is take good care of her and let her do what she is doing.”

What JK She’salady does is win, and if past performance is a strong indicator, both ladies will be smiling for the camera after the fifth race on Saturday night.

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