Lady Joan outduels gritty Lover’s Key to win NYSS Cupecoy’s Joy

Sunday, June 25th, 2017
NYRA/Viola Jasko

NYRA/Viola Jasko

By Sarah Mace

Lady Joan, a 3-year-old daughter of Courageous Cat (Questroyal North), garnered her first career stakes victory when she won the $100,000 Cupecoy’s Joy division of the New York Stallion Stakes Series after besting tough rival Lover’s Key in a more-or-less gate-to-wire duel.

The Cupecoy’s Joy for eligible New York-sired sophomore fillies, along with the Spectacular Bid division of the series, both run at seven furlongs over a “good” Widener turf course, co-anchored Belmont’s Sunday card.

After a sharp break from post four, Lady Joan, the 3-1 third choice of eight, cleared the pack first, but faced an immediate challenge from Lover’s Key (7-2), who rushed up to her inside from post two and initiated a duel that would last until deep stretch.

Though a tepid first quarter mile in 24.25, Lady Joan tracked Lover’s Key a half-length back, while 2-1 favorite Paz the Bourbon chased 1 1/2 lengths further back in third.

As the field entered the far turn, Lover’s Key opened some daylight, but Lady Joan was determined not to let her rival get away. After the half went in 48.12, Lady Joan accelerated, got on even terms with Lover’s Key, and the pair raced in tandem past the quarter pole.

Lover’s Key turned out to be a tough customer in the stretch, but Lady Joan finally got the better of her in the final sixteenth, inching away to win by three-quarters of a length in final time of 1:22.98. Paz the Bourbon finished another half-length length back in third, followed across the line by Carry Your Heels, a 25-1 longshot who finished well to outrun her odds, Silly Numbers, Frosty Gal, Toni Tools and Dreamy Margarita. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“The pace was a little slow but she was right there, so I stayed there and made a run,” said Lady Joan’s regular jockey Luis Saez.

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

Unplaced in her Belmont debut in May 2016, Lady Joan has finished first or second in four turf sprints since then, breaking her maiden at third asking. Her only other out-of-the-money finish came when trainer Phil Serpe and owner Hilly Fields Stable thought enough of the filly to experiment stretching out in the 1 1/16 mile P.G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga in what would be her final start of 2016.

Lady Joan returned to action on May 29 with a solid second-place finish in a first level state-bred allowance at six furlongs over yielding turf at Belmont Park.

Said Serpe on Sunday, “We were using that [May 29] race to get her to move forward for this race. 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 into the races, so that was the plan all along.”

The conditioner elaborated. “She was impressive last year when she broke her maiden and, like a lot of 2-year-olds, she tailed off a little bit in the fall, so we just gave her some time. Fortunately, our owner allows us to do stuff like that. We gave her some time off and she came back nice and fresh.”

In Saez’ opinion, “[Lady Joan]’s getting better and better. Every time she runs, she learns something. Today she was fantastic. She had a good break and was right there and when I asked, she took off. 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.”

A second generation Hilly Fields Stable homebred foaled at Questroyal North, Lady Joan is the first foal out of Ladywell Court, a winning New York-bred daughter of Powerscourt (GB). Ladywell Court has a twice-placed 2-year-old filly by Cosmonaut named Goodbye Brockley, a yearling colt named The Postmaster by the same sire and, on April 13 of this year, foaled a full brother to Lady Joan. Lady Joan has earned $129,840 from two wins and two seconds in six starts,

Lady Joan’s sire, Grade 1 winner and millionaire Courageous Cat, finished on the board in 11 of his 15 career starts and retired with $1,165,760 in earnings. He entered stud at Lane’s End in 2012 and relocated in 2013 to Questroyal North where he stands for $6,000.

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