Day At The Track

JK She'salady is a 'dream come true' for Johansson

10:00 AM 28 Oct 2014 NZDT
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Nancy Johansson, harness racing
Nancy Johansson

As trainer Nancy Johansson gets ready to prepare JK She'salady for the final weeks of her season, she can only laugh when she thinks about how the star filly pacer looked a year ago.

"I liked her from the beginning, even though she was fat like a broodmare when she came in (to begin training for her 2-year-old campaign)," Johansson said with a big smile. "I think about it when we're breaking the babies now. At this time last year, she was exhausted after two laps around the track. But she always had a good attitude and did everything we wanted her to do.

"It's amazing. That's why I love working with young horses, so you can see the progression."

JK She'salady has progressed to the point of being mentioned in the conversation for Horse of the Year. Last Saturday, she won the Three Diamonds Stakes for 2-year-old female pacers at Woodbine Racetrack by 1-1/2 lengths over Solar Sister in 1:52.1, giving her 10 victories in 10 races and $620,830.

Next up is the season-ending Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands, with eliminations - if necessary - Nov. 14 and the final on Nov. 22.

JK She'salady is owned by breeders Alan, Ron and Steve Katz, who are better known in harness racing as 3 Brothers Stables. A daughter of stallion Art Major out of the mare Presidential Lady, she is a full sister to standout 3-year-old male pacer JK Endofanera.

"She's an awesome horse," Johansson said. "It's not only that she manages to win, but she does a lot of work in the races. She's first up a lot. She deserves every win she gets. It's not like she's sitting on the rail and shakes loose, she works for them. She's got more determination than a lot of horses I've seen."

JK She'salady has won each of her most recent seven races by at least one length. Three times, she has won by four or more lengths, including the She's A Great Lady Stakes in a world-record-equaling 1:50.1 at Mohawk.

"She knows what the goal is," Johansson said. "She knows that she's supposed to be first. I always say that's what makes great horses great - they know what this is about. She has tons of determination and grit, but she's smart too. She's not just out there running on talent. She has a lot of talent, but she's figured everything out too.

"And she's easy on herself, too. After she races, she comes home and attacks her feed tub. Nothing really bothers her. She's smart. If it's raining outside, she'll lie down and sleep. She's like, 'Rain day!' When it stops raining, she'll get up ready to jog. In that way, she's super easy to train. I don't have to worry about all the stupid things horses can do."

As her win total has increased, so has recognition. Last week, JK She'salady received eight of 35 first-place votes in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll. She was ranked No. 3 among all horses, and first among pacers. The next poll will be released before noon on Tuesday.

No 2-year-old female pacer has ever been named Pacer of the Year, much less Horse of the Year. In the last 15 years, none have even received much consideration.

See You At Peelers won all 13 of her starts in 2010, becoming just the second 2-year-old female pacer to receive the division's Dan Patch Award with an undefeated season, and got one vote for Pacer of the Year. My Little Dragon, who went 6-for-6 in 2005, received two Pacer of the Year votes and one nod for Horse of the Year.

The 2-year-old filly pacer with the most support in recent years was Eternal Camnation, who got 30 votes for Pacer of the Year in 1999, but was outdistanced by Triple Crown winner Blissfull Hall, with 153 votes.

"That doesn't really matter to me," Johansson said. "I just try to make (JK She'salady) as perfect as she can be for every race. That's my job. Everything else is just extra."

JK She'salady cruised to wins in her first three races, but really opened Johansson's eyes in her fourth start, which came in a division of - interestingly - the Eternal Camnation Stakes at Mohawk.

She was in seventh place, 9-1/4 lengths behind the leader, at the halfway point and three wide, still more than three lengths back, as she made her way around the final turn. As the field straightened for home, she was in front - and won by seven lengths with regular driver Yannick Gingras.

"That was the first moment where I was like, wow, she's the real deal," Johansson said. "I've never seen a horse that can make a move in the turn like she can. Usually in the turn you lose a length or a half a length, but she'll come out of the turn and be on top by two. I think that's pretty amazing with her.

"She loves it. She's put away a lot of nice horses in the last turn. Those fillies are pacing hard and she just goes by them. She's just a dream come true."

by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications

 

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