Quickly proving to be a top sire of juvenile runners, RUNHAPPY’s 2021 was topped off with a potential Kentucky Derby contender on Saturday when his TDN Rising Star son Smile Happy dominated the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2).
The 1 1/16 mile dirt race at Churchill Downs saw Smile Happy comfortably race about five lengths off the leader as the middle marker in the field. The runners tightened up half way down the backstretch with Smile Happy moving a little closer as he raced widest of all in the field.
Around the turn, the running got serious and four horses lined up to battle for the lead with Smile Happy in the thick of things. The battle lasted until the final furlong when Smile Happy was asked to buckle down and he quickly responded. He was off like a shot to win by 3 ¼ lengths for Lucky Seven Stable and stay undefeated in his two starts.
“You’d think this horse ran 10 times already with how mature he acts,” Lanerie said. “He’s very ratable and easy to ride. I felt very confident with him at the half-mile pole. I could tell I had a lot of horse beneath me. I got him into the right spot and he really kicked clear in the stretch. He’s got a bright future.”
Trained by Kenny McPeek, Smile Happy comes from the family of another horse who found major success under the twin spires – 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide. With this victory, the juvenile also puts himself in contention for a spot in the Derby starting gate with 10 points earned on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
“We’ll probably take it easy with him in December and January and start deciding his future in February.” McPeek said of plans for the RUNHAPPY son. “At this stage we have a lot of options on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. It’s a good problem to have.”
Smile Happy is the second stakes performer for his dam Pleasant Smile alongside Wilko Rum. Others in the family include Grade 2 winner Rule, multiple graded stakes winners Matrooh and Belle of Cozzene, and multiple stakes winner Zee Oh Six.
RUNHAPPY’s juveniles have made him one of the leading 2-year-old sires of 2021 with his four stakes winners second best among all sires and better than stallions such as Into Mischief, Quality Road, Munnings, Uncle Mo, and others.