06/25/2017 5:18PM

Lady Joan gets past Lover's Key in Cupecoy's Joy

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Joe Labozzetta
Lady Joan paid $8.20 in winning the Cupecoy's Joy on Sunday at Belmont.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The early pace of the $100,000 Cupecoy's Joy division of the New York Stallion Stakes at Belmont Park on Sunday was slow, and the later fractions were quick. The scenario aided Lady Joan and Lover's Key, who were prominent throughout, and likely hindered others in the field.

Lover's Key didn't get away from the gate sharply, but was sent to the lead by jockey Jose Lezcano. Lady Joan, with Luis Saez aboard, raced just off her.

Lady Joan moved up to challenge on the far turn of the seven-furlong turf race, then proved best in the stretch to win by three-quarters of a length.

Paz the Bourbon, the 2-1 favorite, raced just off Lady Joan early. She moved closer while three wide on the far turn but was unable to make further inroads in the stretch and finished third, three-quarters of a length behind Lover's Key.

The fractions over a Widener course, which was rated "good," were 24.25, 48.12, and 1:11.07. Lady Joan completed the distance in 1:22.98, meaning the final three furlongs went in 34.86 seconds.

"The pace was a little slow, but she was right there, so I stayed there and made a run," Saez said. "The slow pace helped a lot because at the half-mile, I had horse left. I kept going with the group, and she responded in the end."

Lady Joan, a daughter of Frost Giant, paid $8.20 as the third choice in the eight-horse field. Lady Joan is the first stakes winner bred by the Hilly Fields Stable of her owner, Anthony Smith.

Lady Joan won a maiden race at Saratoga last summer. She was given the winter off and returned to the races on May 29, finishing second in a first-level New York-bred allowance race.

"We were using that last race to get her to move forward for this race," Trainer Philip Serpe said. "She got a little backwards in her training down in Florida this winter, so it took a little longer than expected to get her back to the races. Fortunately, our owner allows us to do stuff like that."

Serpe and Smith campaigned Lady Joan's dam, Ladywell Court, together. She went 2 for 5, winning a Belmont maiden race and a Saratoga allowance race in 2012.