When a 2-year-old filly wins a race by 11 lengths, it’s a pretty special feat.
When that same young lady jumps into a stakes for her next start and wins by 11 lengths again, it’s extraordinary.
And when that last win came on relatively short rest and with no workouts, and then she heads into her next race with better spacing between races, some solid works, and improved conditioning, well, you have a highly intriguing opening day featured race at Saratoga Race Course.
The eagerly awaited start of the 158th season of racing at the beloved Spa will take place July 15 with fans in attendance for the first time since Labor Day 2019 and a 2-year-old filly who has been dazzling to say the very least tops the $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes (G3).
Gayla Rankin’s Happy Soul enters the six-furlong sprint off an 11 1/2-length front-running score for trainer Wesley Ward in the June 3 Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park, a victory that came on the heels of an 11 3/4-length triumph in a May 13 maiden race.
“She’s talented and she’s growing,” Ward said. “She was a little bitty tiger when we got her but she’s shot up. She’s starting to elongate as well. She’s doing everything right.
“She’s pretty quick.”
Ward said his original plan was to train up to the Schuylerville following the Runhappy daughter’s lopsided Belmont Park maiden win at five furlongs, but he opted for a highly inviting spot in the 5 1/2-furlong Astoria.
“The owner is a wonderful lady and I had originally planned to wait for the Schuylerville,” Ward said, “but in looking out for her from a monetary standpoint, I saw a small field in the Astoria and I thought Happy Soul would be a big favorite in it, so we ran there. I thought it would be a great spot to get (Rankin) a stakes win.”
Happy Soul not only ran in the Astoria, she ran away and hid from four rivals, covering the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.69 and paying just $2.30 to win as a little more than 1-10 favorite.
Since then Happy Soul has been working quickly at Keeneland in the company of Ward’s 4-year-old grade 1 winner Kimari . On June 30, Kimari covered five furlongs in :59, while Happy Soul was timed in :59 1/5 in advance of her first acid test in a graded stakes.
“She won the Astoria with no works in between. Now she’s doing great. She has nice spacing and some good solid tightners in terms of works in her, like working with Kimari. So she’s a lot better prepared for this upcoming race than she was when she had short rest,” Ward said about a filly who was second beaten 2 1/4 lengths against males in her April 14 career debut at Keeneland. “She’ll have to do a little bit more in this race and then we’ll see what we have, but so far it doesn’t look like she’s slowing down at the end of a race. She has that big, long stride and keeps running. I think she’ll be fine with the six-furlong distance.”
Happy Soul was bought by Rankin for $50,000 from the James Herbener Jr. consignment at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Bred by Harris Training Center out of the Stephen Got Even mare Cowgirl Lucky, Happy Soul is a half sister to the grade 3 winner Calgary Caper .
From her dam’s 12 foals, she is the seventh winner. Cowgirl Lucky’s most recent foal is a weanling Good Magic colt.
The Schuylerville attracted nine starters, all of whom are coming off a victory. The sentimental choice among them, given that it’s Saratoga, should be Marylou Whitney Stables’ Pretty Birdie , a homebred daughter of Bird Song who was a 3 3/4-length winner of a June 18 maiden race at Churchill Downs for trainer Norm Casse.
Trainer Steve Asmussen will send out the duo of Stonestreet Stables’ Velvet Sister , a $500,000 Bernardini filly who won her debut at Belmont Park by nearly 10 lengths, and Will Farish’s homebred Eagle Express , a daughter of Eagle who was a five-length winner of the Pan Zareta Division of the Texas Stallion Stakes at Lone Star Park.
The other top contenders include Swilcan Stables and LC Racing’s Mainstay , an Astern half sister to 2020 2-year-old female champion Vequist trained by Butch Reid, and Jeff Ganje’s Cartel Queen , a daughter of Cairo Prince trained by Tom Amoss, who also entered Jerry Caroom’s Pipeline Girl , an Air Force Blue filly.
The Schuylerville will be the ninth (post time 5:39 p.m. ET) of 10 races on the opening day card that starts at 1:05 p.m. Television coverage will be available throughout the 40-day meet on FOX Sports’ Saratoga Live program.
Saratoga Race Course, Thursday, July 15, 2021, Race 9
- Grade III
- 2 yo Fillies
- 5:39 PM (local)