By Steve Sherack
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – 'TDN Rising Star' Smile Happy (Runhappy), eighth in last year's GI Kentucky Derby behind the re-opposing Rich Strike (Keen Ice), appears to have a very big season ahead of him after delivering a decisive 7-1 upset over a talented group of older horses assembled in Friday's GII Alysheba S. at Churchill Downs.
Smile Happy shadowed heavily favored last-out GII New Orleans Classic S. winner West Will Power (Bernardini) from an outside second through early fractions of :24.30 and :47.80. The Lucky Seven Stable colorbearer struck the front beneath Brian Hernandez, Jr. off the turn for home and kept on finding down the stretch to keep GI Pegasus World Cup winner Art Collector (Bernardini) safe by two lengths. West Will Power stayed on for third.
Winner of the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. beneath the Twin Spires as a 2-year-old, last term's GII Risen Star S. and GI Toyota Blue Grass S. runner-up made two previous starts this season at Oaklawn Park. Smile Happy kicked off his 4-year-old campaign with a smart victory in an optional claimer in the slop Mar. 16, and was most recently third as the favorite in the GIII Oaklawn Mile Apr. 1.
“I'm really not surprised,” winning trainer Kenny McPeek said. “He's tricky to deal with sometimes and the last couple of races, we've finally figured his number. We ran him back quickly at Oaklawn because he was difficult to train at Oaklawn. We got him back here and he's done everything right. But, we learned a value lesson in his last race at Oaklawn. He's a true alpha. He wants everything his own way. But, he can run like the wind. I'm really proud of him.”
It was another disappointing run from last year's monumental Derby upsetter Rich Strike, who was making his first start of the season in the Alysheba. He passed one rival home to finish fifth after trailing for most of the way.
“I'm unusually disappointed in the effort,” trainer Eric Reed said. “I'm not sure what's going on. I expected him to finish better. He was where he was supposed to be but he didn't fire at all.”
Smile Happy, a $175,000 KEENOV weanling and a $185,000 FTKSEL sale graduate, is one of three graded winners for Runhappy and one of 24 graded winners for broodmare sire Pleasant Tap. Smile Happy is the most recent produce from three-time winner Pleasant Smile, who brought $57,000 from Black Type Bloodstock at the 2014 KEENOV sale.
Friday, Churchill Downs
ALYSHEBA S. PRESENTED BY SENTIENT JET-GII, $600,000, Churchill Downs, 5-5, 4yo/up, 1 1/16m, 1:41.29, ft.
1–SMILE HAPPY, 118, c, 4, by Runhappy
1st Dam: Pleasant Smile, by Pleasant Tap
2nd Dam: Relax and Smile, by Relaunch
3rd Dam: Bunch of Smiles, by Graustark
($175,000 Wlg '19 KEENOV; $185,000 Ylg '20 FTKSEL). 'TDN Rising Star'. O-Lucky Seven Stable (Mackin); B-Moreau Bloodstock Int'l Inc. & White Bloodstock LLC (KY); T-Kenneth G. McPeek; J-Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.. $368,280. Lifetime Record: GISP, 8-4-2-1, $1,019,890. Werk Nick Rating: A++. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree or free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Art Collector, 123, h, 6, Bernardini–Distorted Legacy, by Distorted Humor. O/B-W. Bruce Lunsford (KY); T-William I. Mott. $118,800.
3–West Will Power, 120, h, 6, Bernardini–Wild Promises, by Wild Event. O-Gary and Mary West; B-Gary & Mary West Stables Inc. (KY); T-Brad H. Cox. $59,400.
Margins: 2, 3/4, 8 1/4. Odds: 7.74, 3.84, 0.70.
Also Ran: Last Samurai, Rich Strike, Milliken. Scratched: Giant Game.
Click for the Equibase.com chart or the TJCIS.com PPs. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.
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