07/22/2009 11:00PM

Comeback at Solano for horse, trainer


Joyful Me has not raced in more than 10 months, and her trainer, Keith Nations, has never started a runner in a stakes race. But they appear the combination six other fillies and mares will be gunning for in Saturday's $50,000 Vacaville Handicap at the Solano County Fair in Vallejo, Calif.

Joyful Me has recorded 3 wins and 4 seconds in 7 career starts, including a win in last year's Fairfield Stakes for 3-year-old fillies here when Nations was trainer Barbara Heads's assistant. Joyful Me hasn't raced since finishing second in the Sweepida last September at Stockton, and Nations thinks she'll fire off the layoff.

"She's never run a bad race," said Nations. "She's not much of a work horse, but her past three works have been very good."

The six-furlong Vacaville has "always been on the radar," said Nations, who had hoped to run her in a Stockton prep race, but the race never filled.

Joyful Me comes from the back of the pack. Her lack of early foot may be a concern, but not her heart, Nations said.

"There have been some races where you don't think she'll hit the board, but she keeps trying, trying, trying and puts on a late burst," he said.

The 48-year-old Nations won his first race at Emerald Downs in 2001, then stopped training in December 2004. He returned to training as an assistant to Tom Wenzel at Emerald Downs in 2007 when Wenzel won the Longacres Mile with The Great Face.

Last year, Nations came to California as assistant to Heads. When Heads returned to Canada, Nations remained in California, putting together a small stable of seven horses.

He sent out his first two runners at Pleasanton, finishing second with each.

"I worked with a horse that won the Longacres Mile, but this is the best horse I've ever trained," Nations said of Joyful Me. "And I have some young horses that are close to starting that have gotten me excited."

Joyful Me will be facing some sharp runners. Defending champion Kalookan Dancer has an allowance win and a third in her last two starts. Blazeisagamelady brings a two-race winning streak into the race, and Testify to Love returns to California and joins the barn of leading training Jerry Hollendorfer off strong allowance efforts in New Mexico.

Little Bug comes off a win at Pleasanton. Inspiration Within was third in allowance company at Hollywood Park in her last two starts. Beautiful American will make her stakes and sprint debut.