Champion Runhappy Settles in at Santa Anita for Breeders’ Cup
By Reinier Macatangay
After a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs a few weeks ago, Gallery Racing’s champion Runhappy remains on track for the upcoming $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) at Santa Anita Park on November 5. Trainer Laura Wohlers said the 4-year-old colt, who is looking for his second career Breeders’ Cup victory, arrived safe and sound at the Arcadia racetrack via Tex Sutton charter from Kentucky late Sunday.
“He arrived by plane and settled in,” Wohlers said. “He’s doing well, and looks happy and healthy.”
This year things haven’t gone as smoothly for Runhappy. He battled a foot issue and bone bruising for several months after winning the Malibu Stakes (GI) last December, and after a lengthy recovery period returned to action in the Ack Ack with just a few weeks of training and just five published workouts.
Though one prep race is not ideal for Runhappy for Racing’s Championship Day, Wohlers admits that his connections must play the hand that’s been dealt to them.
“It is what it is,” Wohlers admitted. “We hope the one race got enough preparation into him.”
In this year’s Breeders’ Cup, Hall of Famer Gary Stevens will be back aboard Runhappy for the first time in a race since the Malibu, though the jockey did travel to Kentucky on October 12 for the colt’s one-mile work in 1:38 at Keeneland. On race day, in what will be Runhappy’s second effort around two turns, Wohlers indicated the pre-race instructions will likely be to just let Runhappy utilize his speed, which could possibly set up an early duel with front-running rival Dortmund.
“Gary is an experienced jockey who knows Santa Anita,” Wohlers said. “We feel confident.”
After the Breeders’ Cup Wohlers indicated initial plans call for Runhappy to race through a full 2017 campaign, with the immediate goal being the nine-furlong, $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (GI) on January 28 at Gulfstream Park. Though unproven at nine furlongs, Wohlers is confident in Runhappy’s ability to get the distance mostly because of the way he moves.
“We’re still planning on going to the Pegasus Cup,” Wohlers said. “We’re going to have one more race in between if we go. He has a long, powerful stride that goes very fast, so he should handle the distance.”
But first Wohlers is focused on Runhappy winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, which is deep in talent considering other top horses such as Dortmund, Texas Chrome, Gun Runner and more are expected to line up.
Pre-entries for all the Breeders’ Cup races were taken Monday and will be announced on Wednesday.