Runhappy dominates Malibu
Presumptive sprint champion Runhappy remained unbeaten at one-turn distances with another impressive front-running effort in Saturday’s $300,000 Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita, dominating the 7-furlong test for 3-year-olds by a 3 ½-length margin.
Runhappy turned in a spectacular performance in front of an announced crowd of 44,873, the largest opening-day attendance since 1994.
With Gary Stevens subbing for an injured Edgar Prado, the Super Saver colt extended his win streak to six and increased his bankroll to $1,481,300 from a 7-for-8 record. Runhappy’s only career setback was a ninth in the two-turn Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds last January.
Freshened six months off the Lecomte, Runhappy returned with a pair of facile allowance tallies at Indiana Downs and Ellis Park before posting convincing wins in the King’s Bishop (G1) at Saratoga and Phoenix Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.
A game winner of the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland on October 31, the bay colt returned from an eight-week freshening in the Malibu.
The outcome was never in doubt as Runhappy sped through opening splits of :22.42 and :44.81 on a clear lead. He continued to extend his advantage entering the stretch drive, reaching the six-furlong mark in 1:09.06 up by three lengths.
Runhappy finished fast on his own through the final furlong, stopping the teletimer in a respectable 1:21.76 as the 1-2 favorite among seven rivals.
Marking, who was unbeaten in two starts and the 9-2 second choice in the wagering, chased in second throughout, finishing 1 ¾ lengths better than third-placer Lord Nelson. El Kabeir came next in fourth and was followed by Watershed, Pain and Misery and Bad Read Sanchez.
Owned by James McIngvale and trained by Laura Wohlers, Runhappy was bred by Wayne, Gray and Bryan Lyster in Kentucky. He sold for $200,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale. Runhappy is out of the Broken Vow mare Bella Jolie.
GARY STEVENS: “He blows me away. That was only the second time I’ve sat on him (first in a race) and to get to feel that power coming into the stretch was awesome.
“I just want to say ‘Thank you to Edgar Prado.’ Edgar and I had a couple of conversations earlier in the week when I found out I was going to ride this horse and he told me quite a few things about him that helped me today. It was all Runhappy though and he’s an extremely special horse.
“It was harder to pull him up today, than to ride him during the race. There was some oil on the reins and they were slipping. My hand slipped off of his mane coming away from the gate and I cut my finger pretty good. He usually breaks a step slow but he broke like a Quarter Horse today. He was a complete professional.
“I was hoping to get three graded wins today but we got two of them (Stevens also captured the Mathis Brothers Mile [G2] aboard Om)! No better way to start the Santa Anita Meet. It’s perfect.”
RAFAEL BEJARANO, rider of Lord Nelson: “The horse ran good, no excuses. I was right behind those two horses and was in the perfect position. But those two horses, they never quit. I was in a perfect position, right behind with the speed, but those two horses, they never stopped.”
LAURA WOHLERS: “It didn’t surprise me the way he ran today. He’s been training well even though he’s been doing some crazy stuff in the mornings, it’s just because he just wants to stand around and do what he wants to do. We let him get away with that at the training center. Maybe we have to be a little stricter with him, but right now, he really enjoys taking his time looking around. This is a very new environment for him.
“There are lots and lots of horses here. He probably sees more horses before one break than he does in an entire morning at the training center. Training there is a little bit different than training on the main track here, but when he puts his bridle on in the afternoon, he knows what it’s all about.
“When we brought him to the Receiving Barn today, he looked like he had his game face on, so I knew he’d run well. We’re going to be going to the Met Mile. We want to stretch him out and see how he does, and after that, we’ll see if he wants to go longer. It’s one step at a time but we know he can sprint; now we’ll see if we can stretch him out. Gary (Stevens) came off and said, ‘I just want to let you guys know, this horse will go long,’ so we may go with his opinion on that.
“We’ll give the horse a couple of months off and bring him back in March and begin his training again and we’ll see if we have time to prep him in a race before the Met Mile. Otherwise, we’ll train him up to it. He’ll leave Santa Anita in two days for a farm in Texas for two months for some time off.”
JAMES McINGVALE: “The horse ran really well. The entire team did a great job of preparing him, and the people at Santa Anita have been great, so it’s been a top-notch experience all the way around.”
“We hoped he would run well, and he certainly did. We’re thrilled with him. It’s a thrill to win here and we hope to be back for the Breeders’ Cup (Nov. 4-5).”
Runhappy photo courtesy of Benoit Photos