(Photo: Henley's Joy, with Tyler Gaffalione up, captures the Kentucky Downs Juvenile over Tracksmith. Reed Palmer Photography)
The $390,600 Kentucky Downs Juvenile was won by Bloom Racing Stable's Henley's Joy, extending a year of success for the owner of prominent 3-year-old filly Midnight Bisou. Bloom Racing captured last year’s Juvenile with the Steve Asmussen-trained Snapper Sinclair, while Henley’s Joy is trained by Mike Maker, Kentucky Downs’ all-time winningest trainer and three-time defending meet champion.
“I was anxious the whole way down the stretch, but Mike had this horse just primed and ready and he showed what he’s made of,” Bloom said after Henley’s Joy won by a head over Tracksmith, trained by Maker’s former assistant Joe Sharp. “It doesn’t get old, I’ll tell you that much. I love this race.”
When it was suggested he seemed calmer than last year, Bloom joked, “That’s the Maker’s Mark, I think, tempering everything. I was smart and made sure I had calmed the nervous a little bit. So relatively calm? I don’t think so. And I think I actually ran a little bit farther down the stretch this year than I did last year. So I think I should get some credit for that, I think.
“We’ve been really high on this horse from the get-go, and Mike has always maintained that this is a nice horse. Obviously for this horse to do what he did first time out, then to come back off just this one start, Mike has done just a remarkable job with him and we have high expectations for him.”
Sitting comfortably for Tyler Gaffalione near the rail in fifth place on the run up the backstretch and about four lengths back around the sweeping turn, Henley's Joy cut the corner into the stretch to get into contention. He appeared to get the lead between calls, but an eighth of a mile from home he was inside on the rail behind Tracksmith and jockey Adam Beschizza. Henley's Joy re-broke and in a gritty performance prevailed by a head.
“What a professional race he put in today,” Gaffalione said. “All the credit goes to Mike and his team having him ready for this race. He broke alertly. I think it was the addition of blinkers that put him more forwardly placed. When I asked him for run, he moved up a tight spot on the rail and fought on hard. He could be anything. He’s really special. I’m looking forward to getting on him again.”
The win sent Henley's Joy's record to two wins from two starts. He broke his maiden at Ellis Park on July 21 going today's distance of one mile. He was timed in 1:43.33 on firm turf in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile while sporting blinkers for the first time.
“We tried them on one morning and he was very professional and into the bridle,” Maker said. “We thought it was a no brainer. I don’t think he’d have liked being in that tight without the blinkers on. I don’t think he likes it that tight with blinkers on. But he’s such a nice horse he overcame it.”
The win was the second of the day for Maker and Gaffalione, who also teamed up to take the third race on the card. Henley's Joy was sent off as the 9-5 favorite and returned backers $5.60 to win, $3.60 to place and $2.60 to show.
A son of Kitten's Joy bred by Kenneth L. Ramsey and Sarah K. Ramsey, Henley's Joy is out of Blue Grass Music, by Bluegrass Cat. Jeff Bloom bought the colt at the April 2018 OBS 2-year-olds in training sale for $50,000.
Maker said Henley’s Joy could run once more at Keeneland and then in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs.
The filly Drajic finished four lengths back of Tracksmith in third, followed by Jia's Solitude, Best You Ever Seen, Pole Setter, Mr Zydeco, All American Hero, Good Good, Pradar and Coral Legacy.
It was an Ellis Park exacta (which paid $59.60 for $2) featuring horses making their second start after winning their debuts at the Henderson track. Tracksmith won at Ellis on Aug. 3.
“He ran big,” Beschizza said. “He got a little tired there the last 50 yards. They are two very nice 2-year-olds. You take those two any day of the week and they’ll run to a good standard. I said to Joe after he won at Ellis, that I think he’s smart and maybe to have this race in mind. He did and it nearly paid off. He just got a little bit tired here. It’s a little bit of the unknown coming here. You have to have all boxes checked. But he’s pretty smart, and there will be some nice races for him.”