SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Peter Brant’s Virginia Joy scored the fourth group/graded victory of her career on Saturday in the Grade 2, $600,000 Flower Bowl for older fillies and mares traveling 1 3/8 miles at Saratoga Race Course. The frontrunning effort garnered a career second-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure.
Trained by four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, Virginia Joy provided her conditioner with his 11th stakes win of the Saratoga meet. Brown leads all trainers at the meet heading into Sunday’s 12-race card with 39 wins, five more than Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher .
“It’s a credit to my team and the horses,” Brown said of his successes this summer. “It’s a group of really talented teammates and coworkers and a deep pool of versatile, talented horses. Together, they put together a great meet, so all the credit goes to them.”
Virginia Joy’s Flower Bowl win came in wire-to-wire fashion as she set a slow tempo with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, marking off a half-mile in 53.29 seconds and a mile in 1:45.29. Heavy post-time favorite War Like Goddess made a rally from the back of the pack at the top of the lane and drove strongly down the middle of the lane, but could not catch up to Virginia Joy, who held off her challenger by a neck.
“She came out of it fine. She was able to set a soft pace and outsprint the favorite to the wire, so I was grateful for that,” said Brown. “She ran a great race – she set the fractions and I’m proud of her.”
The win awarded Virginia Joy a berth into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in November at Keeneland as part of the “Win and You’re In” qualifying series, but Brown said he unsure exactly where the German-bred Soldier Hollow mare will run next.
“I’m not sure yet, I haven’t decided,” said Brown. “I’ll talk to Mr. Brant about it and see how she trains post-race. I haven’t put much thought into that yet.”
Brown watched a large string of his top turf horses post works over the Oklahoma turf training course Sunday, including Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational winner McKulick, who breezed a half-mile in 1:01.89 in company with Group 1 winner Rougir.
McKulick, who won her first Grade 1 in the Belmont Oaks and has never finished off-the-board in six-lifetime outings, was last seen finishing a game second to With The Moonlight in the Grade 1 Saratoga Oaks Invitational on August 7 at the Spa.
Brown said the daughter of Frankel will now look to contest the third and final leg of the Caesars Turf Triple Series for fillies in the Grade 3, $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational on September 17 at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
“She worked good with Rougir and she’s being pointed to the Jockey Club Oaks,” said Brown. “She’s had a great season so far. I’m hoping she has another good race in her.”
Brown’s first of three Grade 1 wins at the meet came on July 22 when In Italian scored in the $500,000 Diana to upset the field of six that included three stablemates. The daughter of Dubawi has had five works since, including her Sunday breeze in company with multiple graded stakes winner Regal Glory going five furlongs in 1:01.55.
Brown said he was proud to see In Italian score a Grade 1 victory in the Diana and that both she and Regal Glory will get another chance at a top-level victory in Keeneland’s Grade 1 First Lady on October 8 traveling one mile on the lawn.
“It was really rewarding,” Brown said of In Italian’s Diana effort. “She breezed this morning with Regal Glory and went super. They’ll probably both go to the First Lady at Keeneland.”
Regal Glory, a 6-year-old Animal Kingdom mare, was last seen finishing a good second against males in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap on August 13 at the Spa. There, she tracked 3 1/2 lengths off the pace and battled down the lane with Casa Creed, but ultimately finished 1 1/2 lengths in arrears of that foe.
Brown said he is hopeful that Regal Glory will make her first appearance in a Breeders’ Cup in November at Keeneland.
“She ran really well, just came up a little short,” said Brown. “She’s come out of it fine and we’re heading to the Breeders’ Cup down the road.”
Brown noted that Masen, who finished third three-quarters of a length behind Regal Glory in the Fourstardave, will also be pointed to a race at Keeneland. The Kingman gelding was part of Brown’s set over the Oklahoma turf Sunday and breezed five-eighths in 1:00.74 in company with multiple graded stakes winner Public Sector.
NYRA Press Office
Main photo: Virginia Joy wins the Grade 2 Flower Bowl (Susie Raisher)