Runhappy Wins Sixth Race in a Row

Runhappy on his way to winning the Malibu at Santa Anita Park. Photo by Nicholas Keith.

Runhappy on his way to winning the Malibu at Santa Anita Park. Photo by Nicholas Keith.

Just under two months after his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and a much-talked about change in trainers, Runhappy won the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.

The three-year-old colt, who went off at odds of 1-2, picked up his sixth win in a row and made the case even stronger for him to gallop away with an Eclipse Award for champion sprinter.

Before a crowd of nearly 45,000 fans, Runhappy easily outpaced his competition and finished 3 ½ lengths ahead of his closest rival, Godolphin Racing’s Marking, in the seven-furlong, $300,000 race in 1:21:76.
Peachtree Stables’ Lord Nelson and Zayat Stables’ El Kabeir completed the superfecta.

“To get to feel that power coming into the stretch is pretty awesome,” said Runhappy’s jockey Gary Stevens, who had been aboard the son of Super Saver just once before for a workout. “He’s just an extremely special horse.”

Stevens thanked jockey Edgar Prado – who had ridden Runhappy in his past three races but was injured earlier this month – for speaking with him about the colt and telling him “quite a few things” that helped him.

“He usually breaks a step slow and he left there like a quarter horse today,” Stevens said.

The colt’s owner, James McIngvale, said he expects Runhappy to take a couple months off.

“He’s a great horse … I’ve been at this game for 25 years … never had a horse like this and we’re just blessed with a gift from God,” McIngvvale said.”

As for any controversy over the decision to replace trainer Maria Borell with Laura Wohlers a day after Runhappy’s Breeders’ Cup win, McIngvale said simply, “I don’t think about that. I just thought about Runhappy and his career.”

“He has a big entourage like a prize fighter to go around there with him and every one of them loves him,” Runhappy’s owner said after the colt entered the winners’ circle to a rousing chant from his entourage.

“It’s a team effort,” he said. “That’s why we believe in it and we move forward, and the primary and only concern is the horse.”

McIngvale said he’s hoping that the well-traveled colt – who has notched victories at tracks including Ellis Park, Turfway Park, Saratoga and Keeneland – will make another trip to Santa Anita next year for the Breeders’ Cup.

“It was just a special day,” Runhappy’s owner said of the colt’s first race in California.

Horse Bits

 Jockey Gary Stevens also won aboard Om, the just above even-money favorite who won the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes on turf by 1 ¾ lengths. “I was hoping to get three (stakes wins) and we got two of ‘em so no better way to start the Santa Anita meet,” Stevens said.

 Om’s trainer, Dan Hendricks, credited the 3-year-old son of Munnings with running “perfectly” and Stevens with riding “perfectly.” Hendricks said the chestnut colt – who beat Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in a maiden race at Del Mar last year — is sound, happy, full of energy and has been racing every four to six weeks. He’ll stay on the turf for now, Hendricks said.

 Tom Camp with Forum Racing lauded jockey Mike Smith for riding Birdatthewire to a half-length win in the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes for three-year-old fillies, saying that Smith rode her “absolutely textbook.” The daughter of Summer Bird, who went off at just under 11-1, is trained by Dale Romans.

 Toowindytohaulrox won the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs on the downhill turf course at 21-1 odds for jockey Tiago Pereira and trainer Philip D’Amato. Coastline, also trained by D’Amato finished second to complete a whopping $762.20 exacta.