'TDN Rising Stars' Smile Happy (Runhappy) and Emmanuel (More Than Ready) face off Saturday as they try to secure their spots in the GI Kentucky Derby starting gate at Keeneland in the GI Toyota Blue Grass S.
Smile Happy rallied past rivals with ease to take his career bow in style going two turns at Keeneland Oct. 29 and followed suit with a decisive victory in the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. Nov. 27. Splitting foes, the dark bay closed from well back to be second to next-out GII Louisiana Derby winner Epicenter (Not This Time) in the GII Risen Star S. at Fair Grounds last out Feb. 19. His trainer Ken McPeek also saddles last year's GI Claiborne Breeders' Futurity S. winner Rattle N Roll (Connect), who adds blinkers after finishing fourth in the Louisiana Derby.
A dominant debut winner at Gulfstream Dec. 11, Emmanuel wired a Tampa optional claimer next out Jan. 30. The $350,000 KEESEP acquisition was fourth after a wide trip last time in Gulfstream's GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth S. Mar. 5. He is joined by stablemate Commandperformance (Union Rags), who is still maiden of four starts, but finished second in the GI Champagne S. Oct. 2 and was fourth in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Nov. 5.
Jeff Drown's Zandon (Upstart) has been knocking at the door of graded glory and looks to break through here. Opening his account in a Belmont sprint Oct. 9, the dark bay came up a nose short in Aqueduct's nine-panel GII Remsen S. Dec. 4. Hopping at the start of the Risen Star, he launched a five-wide bid, closing to be third.