The horse that brought Kenny McPeek to the winner’s circle for the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs was not the one that most fans would have expected. Instead of Tiz the Bomb, who scratched out of the G2 stakes earlier Saturday, it was Smile Happy, a son of Runhappy, who gave McPeek his third victory in the early prep race for the 2022 Kentucky Derby.
In a field scratched down from 14 to 11, Smile Happy broke from post eight, taking up position in fifth around the first turn and onto the backstretch. Setting early fractions of :23.95 and :48.74, early leader Howling Time had a 1 1/2 length lead down the backstretch, his lead shrinking as the field moved into the far turn.
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Around the far turn, Smile Happy was among the challengers pressing Howling Time, who gave way as they approached the top of the stretch.
Smile Happy went five-wide to find racing room, with Classic Causeway and Ben Diesel driving to his inside. Down the stretch, Smile Happy took the lead at the eighth pole and pulling away late to take the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club by 3 1/4 lengths. Classic Causeway was second and White Abarrio was third.
The final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:43.94.
Smile Happy paid $11.60, $4.60, and $3.60. Classic Causeway paid $3.40 and $2.80. White Abarrio paid $4.00.
Bred in Kentucky by Moreau Bloodstock International and White Bloodstock LLC, Smile Happy is out of the Pleasant Tap mare Pleasant Smile. He is owned by Lucky Seven Stable, who purchased him from Hunter Valley Farm for $185,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase.
The Kentucky Jockey Club is his second victory in his two lifetime starts, for career earnings of $284,810. Smile Happy earns 10 points toward the 2022 Kentucky Derby, with Classic Causeway getting four points, White Abarrio two points, and Ben Diesel one point for his fourth-place finish.
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