We all understand a good three-year-old colt can bring out the pearly whites this time of year. One runner that is bound for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland really has some folks cheesing.
Smile Happy is a lightly raced colt that has been aptly named. Having displayed plenty of potential in just three career starts, this son of Runhappy has two wins and a second. Even though the racing resume is not deep, trainer Kenny McPeek thinks the talent level is.
“He is a really, really good colt”, says McPeek. “We have taken our time with him, but we see all the signs that tell us he has a chance to be special.”
Recognizing early that he had a real contender for the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown races, the veteran conditioner made his plan and he’s sticking to it. Two starts as a two-year-old yielded two very nice wins. His lone start at three saw him finish a fast-closing second in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans on February 19.
“Coming into his three-year-old season we wanted to have two starts before the Kentucky Derby”, says the man with over 1800 wins as a trainer. “The Triple Crown races are far more important than these prep races and we wanted to have a fresh horse going in. We have been just keeping him on ice waiting for the right spot.”
Having already earned 30 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, Smile Happy may have a spot in the starting gates secured for the first Saturday in May. The Risen Star run provided some while the others were earned in his super impressive win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last November.
“His win at Churchill was really nice”, says McPeek. “Knowing he likes the track there is a good sign moving forward. Some horses do not like certain surfaces so it’s always good when you see your horse handle a track the way he did in that one.”
It is understandable for McPeek and owners Lucky Seven Stables to be thinking Kentucky Derby, but the crafty conditioner is focusing on one race at a time. Next up is the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington. Run on April 9 as one of the top final major preps, Smile Happy looks to say cheese at the same track where he broke his maiden on October 29, 2021.
“We chose the Bluegrass primarily because our ownership group is based in Kentucky”, says McPeek, who has won the Bluegrass twice (Harlan’s Holiday 2002, Java’s War 2013). It’s a very prestigious race against good competition which is what we want. From there its four weeks to the Kentucky Derby and we think it gives us a shot. He’s been working well down in Florida and we are very excited.”
The Toyota Bluegrass Stakes is a part of a huge opening weekend at Keeneland Race Course.