Bloom Racing Stable's Henley's Joy surprised bettors with a 20-1 upset in Saturday's Grade 1 Belmont Derby, his first win of 2019. The 3-year-old son of Kitten's Joy and jockey Jose Lezcano defeated 16-1 chance Social Paranoia by three-quarters of a length on the wire, completing 1 1/4 miles over Belmont's firm turf course in 1:58.29. The first leg of the inaugural Turf Triple was the first graded stakes win for the Mike Maker-trained Henley's Joy.
“It was great,” said Nolan Ramsey, Maker's assistant and the grandson of breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey. “I was kind of expecting it. He's a horse I hate to make excuses for, but it seems like every race he's got some sort of excuse. Today, he got the perfect ride and a clean trip and he really relished the distance.
“He shows up. He's very consistent. He's never really run a bad race. We knew a mile and a quarter would fit him, so we were confident going in, but obviously it was a really tough field so we knew he needed a clean trip, and that's what he got.”
Henley's Joy was the quickest of 14 out of the gate, but settled willingly off the frontrunners Moon Colony and Blenheim Palace through fractions of :23.31 and :47.80. Racing in third alongside Social Paranoia, Henley's Joy had the inside advantage through the first turn and down the backstretch.
Rounding the far turn, Social Paranoia had the first run on the leaders from the outside and burst into the lead. Lezcano shifted Henley's Joy into the clear on the outside and easily ran down Social Paranoia, holding him at bay all the way to the finish to win by three-quarters of a length. Social Paranoia had to settle for second, while late-running Rockemperor finished third. Digital Age got up for fourth.
The remaining order of finish was as follows: Seismic Wave, Plus Que Parfait, Standard Deviation, Cape of Good Hope, Moon Colony, English Bee, Spinoff, and Demarchelier.
Demarchelier, previously undefeated, was vanned off the course. The Daily Racing Form's David Grening reported that he had lameness in his right front leg.
Bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Henley's Joy was a $20,000 yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale, and commanded $50,000 when pinhooked through OBS April. The colt broke his maiden on debut, then captured the Kentucky Downs Juvenile before running second in the G2 Dixiana Bourbon. He did not take to the soft ground in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, finishing 13th, but won a listed stakes at Gulfstream to close out his juvenile season. In five starts this season, Henley's Joy had twice finished second. Overall, the colt's record stands at four wins and three seconds from 11 starts for earnings of $1 million.
“It's such a big race to win and it's so important, but for this particular horse, he's had the worst racing luck and he's just been so honest, so many rough trips, it was just so gratifying to see him be able to show everybody how talented he is,” said owner Jeff Bloom. “He's had so many near misses in situations where things didn't go right and he answered the call today in a big spot.”
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