Joyce gets back on track that boosted his career

Jockey's fortunes improved after he won Timonium meet in 2006


August 24, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun reporter

Jockey Jonathan Joyce can't wait to get to Timonium today when the track opens for its traditional seven-day meet during the Maryland State Fair.

"The atmosphere is so much fun," Joyce said. "Last year was my first year at a fair meet and I loved seeing the people. All the kids. Kids were asking me for my goggles after races and I could relate. When I was a kid, I was the kid who'd come back after a race and ask for the autograph and the goggles. I did the same thing and now I'm here. Maybe one of those kids will be here, too, someday."

Joyce will ride in six races on today's card that begins at 1:05 p.m. It will be the first of two long weekends of racing, with live racing scheduled today, tomorrow and Sunday, and Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Labor Day next weekend.

The track also will be open for simulcasting Monday through Thursday.

The five-eighths-of-a-mile track will present two six-furlong stakes races for Maryland-bred horses over the Labor Day weekend, the $50,000 Alma North for fillies and mares Sept. 1 and the $50,000 Taking Risks on Sept. 3.

Timonium also will offer bonuses to the top four trainers in wins. A year ago, Ben Feliciano Jr. was the No. 1 trainer. This year, the top four each will get prize boosts of $4,000 to $1,000.

For Joyce, his active race card today is fitting. A year ago, the 22-year-old New York native won this meet to begin a very good year.

"Ever since then, things have been going real good," Joyce said. "When I won Timonium, it boosted my business and opened some eyes."

Over the summer, Joyce finished fifth in the standings at Colonial Downs in Virginia with 21 wins. Although he missed the first week of Laurel's 10-day meet, he has had a handful of good finishes this week.

"I'm very satisfied with the way things have been going," he said. "I ride a lot for King Leatherbury, who has been very supportive. I couldn't work for a better trainer."

Garcia earns title

Jockey Luis Garcia, owner Michael Gill and three trainers won titles yesterday as Laurel's 10-day summer meeting ended.

Garcia, 22, won his second career title in Maryland by winning 11 races, bringing his yearly total to a colony-high 90 victories.

Gill won four races from 13 starters to win the owner title. Dale Capuano, Hamilton Smith and Gammy Vazquez all had four winners to share the training championship.

Next for Hard Spun

Trainer Larry Jones said he is pointing Hard Spun, with Ellicott City's Mario Pino riding, toward the Breeders' Cup Classic. With that in mind, he has entered the horse in tomorrow's Grade I $250,000 King's Bishop Stakes run over seven furlongs at Saratoga.

"Hard Spun is still undefeated at distances under a mile," Jones said. "He's a very fast horse, and we know we're only going to get to see him for a short time yet. He'll be retired after the Breeders' Cup.

"So we've decided to let him show what he's good at. We'd like to get him a Grade I win, but mostly we want to get ready for the Breeders' Cup Classic."

Jones said Hard Spun will take on Street Sense and Curlin one more time in the Classic, but that he doesn't want to wear out his horse by going against those top two horses every time out.

"If you go against Street Sense and Curlin every time, you have to empty the tank every time," he said.

That decision further undermines the Grade I, $1 million Travers Stakes field that once had the possibility of having Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, Preakness winner Curlin, Derby runner-up Hard Spun, and even the Belmont-winning filly Rags to Riches in the lineup.

Instead, the Travers will feature Street Sense against a field of developing horses that includes CP West and Helsinki from the Nick Zito barn, Sightseeing trained by Shug McGaughey, and Loose Leaf, Grasshopper and For You Reppo.

But Street Sense's trainer, Carl Nafzger, said his horse still will have "to run big" or he'll get beat.

"I'm most concerned about Sightseeing," Nafzger said. "Shug has been pointing that horse to this race all year. I think he'll be a formidable foe."

If Street Sense wins, he will become the first horse to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Kentucky Derby and Travers, and only the 10th horse to win the Derby and the Travers. The last to do it was Thunder Gulch in 1995.

The Travers, King's Bishop and Grade II, $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap will all be televised from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow on ESPN.

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