05/04/2011 2:39PM

Kentucky Oaks: Joyful Victory looks to give Jones his second Oaks win


KENTUCKY OAKS DAY: Past performances, video, and race previews for Friday's full card

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Kentucky Oaks has been a special race for Larry Jones. The Kentucky-born trainer experienced something of a career breakthrough in 2004 when sending out longshot Island Sand to be second to Ashado in the Churchill Downs filly classic, then won it four years later with Proud Spell.

“That was a joyful victory with Proud Spell,” Jones said slyly, knowing full well the added meaning of his recollection.

Indeed, by saddling the aptly named program favorite, Joyful Victory, Jones might well find himself back in the Churchill spotlight after the Grade 1, $1 million Oaks is run Friday for the 137th time. Joyful Victory, a striking gray filly owned by the Fox Hill Farms of Rick Porter, will break from post 1 in a field of 13 3-year-old fillies. An ontrack crowd of more than 100,000 is expected for “Louisville’s Day at the Races.”

“The filly’s trained right along,” Jones said. “Obviously, she made tremendous progress through the winter to get to this point, to become the favorite for the Kentucky Oaks. I’m very happy with how she comes up to this, very satisfied that she’s ready to run a big race.”

Joyful Victory comes off sensational triumphs in back-to-back Oaklawn Park stakes, the Honeybee and Fantasy, although she inherited the role of Oaks favorite only after the defection of R Heat Lightning earlier this week. R Heat Lightning made her ascent in Florida over the winter, only to be diagnosed Monday with a knee injury.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has the mount on Joyful Victory.

Several other fillies are being given solid chances to temper the enthusiasm of the Joyful Victory camp, including Kathmanblu, Zazu, Summer Soiree, and Plum Pretty. Perhaps the most formidable of those is Kathmanblu, a multiple stakes winner whose jockey and trainer, Julien Leparoux and Ken McPeek, are enjoying a terrific spring, having topped the standings in their respective categories at the recently ended Keeneland meet.

“I really like the way the filly has gone about her business since the Ashland,” in which she was third as the favorite, said McPeek, who trains Kathmanblu for the Five D Thoroughbreds.

Zazu, trained by John Sadler, developed into a force on the Southern California circuit this winter, capturing the Grade 1 Las Virgenes before finishing a close second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks.

Summer Soiree was trained by Jones when she posted a 10 3/4-length romp in the Bourbonette Oaks on March 26, after which she was purchased by Team Valor International and turned over to trainer Graham Motion.

Plum Pretty exploded to a 25-length score and a field-high 99 Beyer Speed Figure over lesser rivals in her last race, the Sunland Park Oaks, and threatens to give trainer Bob Baffert his second Oaks win, following Silverbulletday (1999).

“She’s one fast filly,” Baffert said.

The rest of the Oaks lineup includes Lilacs and Lace, Suave Voir Faire, Her Smile, Bouquet Booth, Daisy Devine, Holy Heavens, and St. John’s River. Of those, Daisy Devine might have the best shot at upsetting. Pegged at 20-1 on the morning line, the daughter of Kafwain comes off a victory in the richest Oaks prep, the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, despite losing R Heat Lightning, still has a longshot possibility in Her Smile, owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Pletcher won the Oaks with Ashado and Rags to Riches (2007).

On paper, the pace of the Oaks figures to be contested by Lilacs and Lace and Summer Soiree, with perhaps Bouquet Booth, Daisy Devine, and Plum Pretty part of that early mix. Joyful Victory and Kathmanblu both do their best from just off the lead, while Zazu and some of the others probably would have to come from well back to prevail.

Kathmanblu closed as the favorite in the only Oaks Future Wager pool offered this spring. She was the 7-2 favorite in the March 11-13 pool, with Zazu the 7-1 second choice. Seven of the 13 Oaks runners are part of the mutuel field (9-1) in that pool.

The Oaks purse was doubled this year from its customary $500,000-added level.

First post for a 12-race Oaks Day card is 10:30 a.m. Eastern. The Oaks, the 11th race, is set for 5:45 p.m., with Versus providing live television coverage from 5-6 p.m. Five other stakes are on a blockbuster card, including sensational renewals of the $300,000 La Troienne (race 6) and $300,000 Alysheba (race 9).

The Oaks starts off a pair of two-day wagers, the $1 Oaks-Derby double and the 50-cent Oaks-Woodford-Derby pick three. A wide array of gimmick wagers also are on the menu, including the new 50-cent pick five, although superfectas will only be available for a $1 minimum here Friday and Saturday, not the usual 10 cents.

Oaks Day carries a “Pink Out” theme for the third straight year, with eight of the 12 races being for female runners. Pink is the motif for the Susan G. Komen foundation, which raises funds and awareness for breast cancer. The day will include numerous tributes to the fight against breast cancer, including a survivors parade on the racetrack involving hundreds of women.

The weather forecast for Friday calls for a chance of scattered showers to return to the Louisville area after an absence of several days. Highs will be in the mid-60s.

General admission is $25 on Friday and $40 on Saturday.