Runhappy Romps in the Phoenix Stakes

Runhappy Romps in the Phoenix Stakes

Keeneland Photo

Runhappy winning the Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland - Keeneland Photo
Runhappy winning the Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland – Keeneland Photo

On opening day at Keeneland, the three-year-old sprinting sensation Runhappy picked up another major victory when he defeated a top-notch field in the $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (gr. III).

Racing over a sloppy, sealed track that he was unfamiliar with, Runhappy gave his connections–and those that wagered on him as the 1.40-1 favorite–a few anxious moments when he broke slowly and was in danger of getting boxed in along the rail. But flashing his typical early speed, Runhappy sprinted up to seize command and opened up a two-length advantage through an opening quarter-mile in :21.52. His lead shrank to a length through a half-mile in :44.81 as defending Phoenix winner and 2014 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) champion Work All Week moved up to challenge, but Runhappy shrugged off his rival in the homestretch, cruising away while drifting out down the homestretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths in the fast time of 1:09.96 seconds.

Barbados, a graded stakes-winning three-year-old sprinter, rallied from last to edge Work All Week for second, while Holy Boss–winner of the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga–rounded out the superfecta.

Edgar Prado, the winning jockey, was impressed with Runhappy’s performance: “He broke a step slow.” Prado was quoted as saying. I had to get him running out of the gate (from the) inside (post 1), sloppy track, a lot of speed in the race. I had to get in position and let him do his thing. He did it. He’s a nice horse, came running, very fast.”

“He’s very talented. He’s an amazing horse.” said winning trainer Maria Borell. “I’m so lucky and blessed to have him. Thank you so much, (owner) James McIngvale and (racing manager) Laura Wohlers. I’m so blessed.”

Runhappy's connections after the Phoenix Stakes - Keeneland Photo
Runhappy’s connections after the Phoenix Stakes – Keeneland Photo

While Runhappy’s drifting in the homestretch was noticeable, Borell noted on Twitter that the drifting was intentional, explaining that Prado wished to get Runhappy off of the rail, which was the slowest part of the track due to the muddy conditions. Borell also noted that Runhappy’s saddle slipped during the race.

For Work All Week, his third-place finish marked the first time in his career that he has finished worse than second. Richard Papiese of Midwest Thoroughbreds, which owns Work All Week, explained that the track conditions may have had an impact on Work All Week’s performance: “We are disappointed. He didn’t handle the track too well, but no excuses. He usually handles a wet track, but I spoke to (Geroux) and he just didn’t get a hold of it at all. It is what it is and we’ll move on to (the Breeders’ Cup). Hopefully we have enough points and the weather isn’t like this.”

Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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Runhappy has trained over the KEE track several times as he is based down the road at TTC. Not all works were caught by the clocker, but a few were. Prado actually flew in for one such breeze a bit before Runhappy shipped to Saratoga.