What's Runhappy's Top Competition in 2016?

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D.S. Williamson

December 27th, 2015

After watching the Malibu Stakes on Saturday, one word came to mind:  phenomenal. That's the only word that I could think of to describe the amazing Runhappy. It would do the horse, the sport actually, no justice to use any other word. Coming off of a sensational run in the 2015 Breeders Cup Sprint, much was expected of Runhappy. But, this? Running a :44.4 half-mile in a 7 furlong race? Getting 3/4ths in 1:09 flat before pulling away for the easiest of victories? It was incredible. It was even more incredible in light of the fact that Runhappy had been a bad actor all the way up to the Malibu.

His bad acting, as crazy as it sounds, could be a sign that the horse is maturing. In Tiznow's best races, he acted terribly before they got him into the gate. It was just how he was. Runhappy might be that kind of horse, which brings me to something else. The 2015 future Eclipse winning sprint champion might be able to do much more on the racetrack. He has an incredibly high cruising speed. What's more impressive is that he takes cues like a five-year-old, grizzled, vet even though he's still, technically, only 3 for another week. He was sired by Super Saver who won the Kentucky Derby. His mother, Bella Jolie, finished 8th in both of her only 2 lifetime races. They were both at a route of ground.

The grandsire on Runhappy's broodmare side is Broken Vow whose last 3 races were comprised of a 1 1/4 mile and two 1 1/8 mile graded events. Plus, with the death of Shared Belief and the retirements of Tonalist, Liam's Map, Wicked Strong and Honor Code, the handicap division could be light. That's something that the Runhappy camp has to be thinking about.

California Chrome and Dortmund are obvious horses for the top spot in the handicap division. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, so are Frosted, Effinex and Smooth Roller. But, who is going to step up after those horses? Almost as important for Runhappy's connections could be the fact that Dortmund and California Chrome are pointing towards the the Dubai World Cup in March. Due to the 2016 horse racing schedule, the best in the U.S. can't run in both the World Cup on March 26  and the Santa Anita Handicap on March 12. If Dortmund and California Chrome are both preparing for Meydan, it might be difficult not to take the big money and prestige that comes along with winning the Big Cap. If he were to win the Big Cap, the Breeders Cup Classic would no doubt be Runhappy's goal for 2016.

I'd be thinking this way if I were owner James McIngvale and trainer Laura Wholers. Horses bred like Runhappy that run as fast he does early and as fast as he does late can carry their speed for much longer distances than a mile. My brother Eddie years ago pointed out to me that the very best horses that have ever lived, for the most part, were front-runners or pressers. Secretariat was a front runner presser type. Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Tiznow, American Pharoah, the list goes on and on. Breeding wise, there's nothing that says Runhappy can't go further than a mile or further than even  1 1/8 miles. Ghostzapper started out as a sprinter until the indomitable Bobby Frankel decided to try him at a route of ground in the Philip H. Iselin at 1 1/8 miles. We all know that Ghostzapper did after that.

Runhappy is a monster. I'm sure McIngvale and Wholers understand that. Hopefully, they'll let Runhappy prove it against California Chrome, Dortmund, Effinex and Frosted.


Dec. 26 saw some excellent Racing Contests at BetAmerica!  Make sure to get in on the action!