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Joyful Victory gives Jones second record-setter of the evening in Houston Ladies Classic

Joyful Victory romped in her record-setting score in the Houston Ladies Classic (Jack Coady/Coady Photography)

The inaugural running of the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday evening attracted a spectacular field of fillies and mares. From an Oklahoma champion to a filly that competed in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, the contenders arrived with collective earnings in excess of $2.3 million.

However, there was no denying the class and determination of Joyful Victory, who took the lead under rider Rosie Napravnik and drew off to a 4 1/4-length score.

"It wasn't necessarily my goal to go to the lead," Napravnik admitted. "I expected to sit off the pace a little. But, when no one came with us, I said 'we'll take it'. She was on her game today and ran an excellent race."

Joyful Victory set splits of :24, :47 4/5 and 1:12 while tracked by Sisterly Love on the backstretch. That one faded a bit in the lane, leaving the way clear for Brushed by a Star to begin her move after saving ground rounding the turn.

Unfortunately for Brushed by a Star, Joyful Victory would not be caught in this one and continued to draw off to set a new track record of 1:42.30 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast dirt. The previous track record of 1:42.74 was set on February 13, 1999, by Desert Air.

The public sent Joyful Victory off as the 3-2 favorite and she rewarded that backing with payouts of $5, $2.80 and $2.40.

Brushed by a Star, queen of the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher and a head victress in the Grade 2 Chilukki Handicap over Joyful Victory last season, ran a game second. Sisterly Love, who was making her stakes bow, suffered her first loss from four career starts when running third in this spot. Next under the wire were She's All In and Lookinforchange.

Rider Miguel Mena lost his irons aboard Summer Applause, who was making her first start since running in the Kentucky Oaks last May, and the duo wound up last.

Trainer Larry Jones has always had high hopes for Joyful Victory, who sports the silks of Fox Hill Farms. The gray daughter of Tapit romped when taking the Grade 3 Honeybee and Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park before running fourth in the 2011 Kentucky Oaks. Next out she was second in the Grade 1 Mother Goose but tired to fifth and last in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and was given the rest of the year off.

Joyful Victory never finished worse than third last season as a four-year-old, taking the Tiffany Lass at Fair Grounds in February and placing in five graded events, including the Grade 1 Zenyatta and just missing in the Chilukki.

Jones was thrilled with his filly's return to the winner's circle Saturday evening, which improved her career record to 16-5-5-3, $910,679.

"The plan was to get her to relax; not to fight her and just let her run," Jones said, before adding about his second track record of the evening, "I can't take credit for setting two track records; Rosie had everything to do with that. But if there was one I really wanted, it was this race."

In addition to setting a track record in the Houston Ladies Classic, Jones and Napravnik teamed up earlier on the card to best the previous record for five furlongs on the firm turf in the $75,000 Champion Energy Services with Icon Ike.

That four-year-old son of Yes It's True edged Chamberlain Bridge in a tight photo in a final time of :56.48 seconds, besting the previous record of :56.81 set by Charming Socialite in 2006.

"He got there in the last jump," Jones said. "That was an amazing finish."

Both Icon Ike and Chamberlain Bridge bided their time in the rear of the 10-horse field before putting in their runs late while wide. The dark bay Icon Ike just got his nose down on the wire first, denying 2010 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint hero Chamberlain Bridge a second win at Sam Houston.

This was the first score since July for Carolyn and Fletcher Gray's homebred Icon Ike, who was a fast-closing second last month in the Bonapaw Stakes at Fair Grounds. He now boasts $250,544 in career earnings and owns a scorecard that reads 15-6-2-3.

Chamberlain Bridge was impressive in defeat, as was his entry-mate Canuletmedowneasy, who ran third.

"He's a very smart horse and has run so well for many years," trainer Bret Calhoun noted about the nine-year-old gelding.

Calhoun captured the first stakes of the evening with Gary and Mary West's homebred Tour Guide in the $50,000 Allen's Landing for three-year-olds. The Broken Vow colt came three wide on the turn after stalking the early pace in third and proved best by a half-length under Mena.

Tour Guide held off a late surge from Hardrock Eleven to complete seven furlongs in 1:23 on the dirt. In the process, the bay colt earned his second straight stakes win after taking the Sugar Bowl on December 22 at Fair Grounds, and bumped his lifetime mark to 6-4-1-0, $125,050.

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