03/16/2013 7:40PM

Santa Anita: Joyful Victory grasps elusive Grade 1 win in Santa Margarita

Benoit & Associates
Rosie Napravnik guides Joyful Victory to a four-length score in the Santa Margarita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – It took 17 races and some frustrating near-misses over the course of a couple years, but the ambitious, cross-country schedule mapped out for Joyful Victory by trainer Larry Jones and owner Rick Porter finally earned a Grade 1 dividend on Saturday when Joyful Victory crushed four rivals in the $294,250 Santa Margarita Stakes, the championship race of the Santa Anita meet for older fillies and mares.

Joyful Victory ($4.20), under the country’s winningest rider, Rosie Napravnik, took over a half-mile into the 1 1/8-mile race, opened up on the field nearing the quarter pole, and was never threatened thereafter while romping by four lengths. More Chocolate was a clear-cut second, 5 1/4 lengths in front of Brushed by a Star.

Great Hot was fourth, and Snow Fall was eased by jockey Tyler Baze after six furlongs. According to Santa Anita’s stewards, track veterinarians could not find anything wrong with Snow Fall, but Baze thought she took a couple of bad steps and used caution.

Joyful Victory was timed in 1:49.53 on the fast main track.

Joyful Victory, 5, had finished second in the 2011 Mother Goose, and second in the Zenyatta here last fall, among prior Grade 1 tries. The desire to finally put a Grade 1 win on her resume was the primary reason Jones and Porter, who races as Fox Hill Farms, had Joyful Victory ship from her winter home at Fair Grounds for the Santa Margarita.

“She was favored in the Kentucky Oaks,” Jones said, “but something always happened.

“I was starting to wonder,” Jones said.

Joyful Victory was coming off a runaway win in the Houston Ladies Classic on Jan. 26, only the second time she had hooked up with Napravnik, who first rode Joyful Victory in the Zenyatta last fall. They obviously make a terrific team.

“Rosie is one of those special riders. A gift from God is what she has,” Jones said. “She’s one of the brightest young stars in the game.”

Joyful Victory, a daughter of Tapit, has now won 6 times in 17 starts, and the $180,000 winner’s share put her over the $1 million mark in career earnings. Her biggest graded stakes win had been the Grade 2 Fantasy nearly two years ago.