Given her background, it is no surprise L A Delight is something of a professional. And that delights her new trainer, Nancy Johansson.
Johansson began working with the 5-year-old female pacer following her private purchase last month by Adam Bowden’s Diamond Creek Racing. She was trained previously by Hall of Famer Bob McIntosh, earning $1.32 million and capturing divisional O’Brien Award honors in Canada at ages 2 and 3.
"She’s a lovely mare to be around," Johansson said. "She does her work. There’s nothing really out of the ordinary about her, which is extraordinary, I guess, in some kind of way. She knows exactly what she’s supposed to do."
L A Delight is a daughter of Bettor’s Delight out of stakes-winner West Of L A. She was bred by McIntosh, C S X Stables and Al McIntosh Holdings Inc., and is a half-sister to millionaire Somewhere In L A. Her family also includes 2012 North America Cup champion Thinking Out Loud and stakes-winning You See L A.
She enters 2018 with 23 wins and 36 total top-three finishes in 47 career starts. Her victories include the 2015 She’s A Great Lady Stakes, the 2016 Jugette, and two Ontario Sire Stakes championships.
"It’s a tough act to follow," Johansson said with a laugh.
L A Delight, who has won two qualifiers this month for Johansson, is being prepped for the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, which begins March 16, at Yonkers Raceway. The six-week event concludes April 21 with a $125,000-added final.
"She’s a little hard to gauge, because she’s one of those horses that does enough to win," Johansson said. "But she was well in hand and not stressed at all by either qualifier.
"The Matchmaker is a tough series. It’s a lot of weeks in a row and I want her peaking for the legs and final there, not for qualifiers. Hopefully with a little bit of racing she’ll find her form."
Johansson, a previous winner of the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Rising Star Award, has enjoyed success with female pacers, most notably with 2014 Horse of the Year JK She’salady. Last year, Johansson set career highs for wins, with 36, and trainer’s rating, with a .310 mark.
Among her top returnees from 2017 is 3-year-old filly pacer Kissin In The Sand, who won seven of 14 races last season including the Kindergarten Series championship and divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion stakes.
"She’s coming back nicely," Johansson said. "She’s just training on the straight track right now, getting some conditioning into her. She’s always been a good-sized filly and she filled out a little bit during turnout. The time off was good for her.
"She’s probably the fastest filly I’ve ever trained, like quick speed. She’s got high speed to her. If she could put it all together and mature a little bit and grow a little bit from last year, I think her speed can take her a long way this year."
Johansson’s stable also includes 17 two-year-olds.
"I’d say overall that this is the best group I’ve ever had," Johansson said. "We’ve had one or two standouts every year, but this year as a whole group, I’d say it’s probably the best. We have some nice trotters. We have a couple really nice Father Patrick-(sired) fillies that I like a lot and two Cantab Hall-(sired) fillies that are very nice.
"Hopefully they can do some damage on the track."--By Ken Weingartner/USTA