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Borell Discusses Runhappy and Breeders’ Cup Sprint

Borell Discusses Runhappy and Breeders’ Cup Sprint: Trainer Maria Borell and her horse, multiple graded stakes winner and Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) contender Runhappy, are rising names in horse racing. Runhappy is owned by James McIngvale, of Gallery Furniture fame. Fans first watched Runhappy when a YouTube video of him breaking his maiden at Turfway Park exploded. Now, most observers recognize Runhappy as one of the best sprinters, and Borell as a trainer making her dreams come true.

Runhappy Breeders' Cup 2015

Breeders’ Cup Sprint contender Runhappy won the King’s Bishop (GI) at Saratoga over a decent field including Holy Boss and Competitive Edge. Photo: Coglianese/NYRA

Borell went out on her own as a trainer two years ago. She once galloped horses for Barclay Tagg and Nick Zito. What started her interest in horse racing?

“Watching Sunday Silence win the Derby in 1989 with my dad,” Borell recalled.

When asked if it is difficult working as a female trainer in this industry, she shrugged off the idea.

“I just don’t pay attention to people,” Borell said. “I don’t pay attention to the haters. Just trying to enjoy the horse.”

Runhappy gives his connections a lot to enjoy. He first broke his maiden at Turfway Park last December in sensational fashion. After breaking slowly, the son of Super Saver rushed up on the inside, took a commanding lead into the stretch, and won while running erratically towards the end.

The connections briefly placed the talented colt on the Derby trail, entering Runhappy in the LeComte Stakes (GIII) at Fair Grounds. Some bumping occurred at the beginning, but he made his early move and soon took the lead. Unfortunately, the early trouble took the steam out and Runhappy faded. An injury also put him on the shelf.

He reappeared at Indiana Grand Race Course and Ellis Park in two July races, which he both won. Then, Runhappy won the King’s Bishop (GI) at Saratoga over a decent field including Holy Boss and Competitive Edge. He also proved victorious in the Phoenix Stakes (GIII) at Keeneland, while breaking slow and drifting out slightly again.

Borell addressed the breaking issue first.

“In the Phoenix, it was for a couple of reasons,” Borell said. “He was tripping a bit in the post parade, so he knew it was kind of slippery. But also, he had an injury in his right hind after the LeComte.

“I think he remembers that race a little bit. So it takes him a few strides.”

She then talked about Runhappy’s drifting tendency nearing the finish line.

“It’s been for different reasons every race,” Borell explained. “In Indiana, he was a little bit green. At Ellis, he was a little tired. He went pretty fast and was not completely fit then.

“In the Phoenix, Edgar said he brought him out on purpose. He thought he saw a horse coming outside, so he tried to go over. Also, he said the rail was dead.”

As for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, she acknowledges the race will not be easy to win.

“Private Zone is a good horse,” Borell said. “There are a lot of good horses. That is why it’s the world championships.”

Future plans call for Runhappy to run next year, possibly in different kinds of races other than sprints. Borell believes her horse can get a longer distance with more experience under his belt.

“I think he will actually be a brilliant miler,” Borell said.

When asked about how she would react to a Breeders’ Cup win, Borell gave an honest response.

“Probably faint,” she admitted. “I can’t even picture it. It’s all been so unreal.”

Runhappy, to be ridden by Edgar Prado, is pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint along with Private Zone, Holy Boss, Masochistic, Salutos Amigos, La Verdad, Palace, Wild Dude and others. Taking home the Sprint would make Runhappy the Eclipse Award favorite for Best Sprinter, and cap off a magical year. Some YouTube horse racing stars tend to only be remembered for a specific race (ex. Spicer Cub). Runhappy will likely be remembered for his entire career.

The Breeders’ Cup TwinSpires Sprint takes place at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015 at approximately 2:50 pm ET. 

Runhappy breaks his maiden at Turfway Park in a memorable stretch run: