Straight No Chaser returns in G3 Runhappy
Stakes Advance
May 8, 2024
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Straight No Chaser returns in G3 Runhappy

by Christian Abdo

MyRacehorse’s graded stakes-winner Straight No Chaser will make his much-anticipated return from a nearly one-year layoff in Saturday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Runhappy, a six-furlong sprint for older horses, at Belmont at the Big A.

The Runhappy, slated as Race 4, adds to a lucrative 11-race card which boasts four graded stakes, including the Grade 2, $400,000 Man o’ War in Race 7; the Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan in Race 6; and the Grade 3, $175,000 Beaugay in Race 2. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.

Trained by Juan Landeros, assistant to conditioner Dan Blacker who is serving a suspension, the 5-year-old Speightster horse was last seen winning the six-furlong Grade 3 Maryland Sprint last May on Preakness Day at Pimlico Race Course. There, he broke sharply and was taken to the front by Hall of Famer and returning rider John Velazquez to lead at each call before drawing off under a hand ride to finish an impressive 7 1/2-length winner in a final time of 1:08.27.

The standout performance garnered a career-best 107 Beyer Speed Figure, improving upon a 101 prior for a 7 1/4-length victory in an April optional claiming sprint at Oaklawn Park.

Straight No Chaser established himself as one of the top sprinters in the country with his romps at Pimlico and Oaklawn after a strong third in the Grade 3 Palos Verdes at Santa Anita Park to start his 4-year-old campaign last February. He was sidelined after his Maryland Sprint triumph when a PET scan indicated an area of concern in his left front.

Joe Moran, Racing Manager of MyRacehorse, said he is thrilled to have the classy sprinter back in the starting gate with a goal of contesting the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November at Del Mar.

“We always had the Runhappy as an option. We’re just trying to map out the best plan for him with a goal to make a run at the Breeders’ Cup Sprint this year. That was our goal last year and his campaign got cut short,” Moran said.

Straight No Chaser returned to the tab on February 24 and has since worked extensively at Santa Anita, including a bullet five-eighths in 59.20 seconds on April 27 before completing the same distance most recently in 1:01.40 on May 4.

“We gave him plenty of time. He’s always been one hundred percent since he came back. His work where he went 59 and one with the bullet was the work that gave us the green light that he was ready,” Moran said. “He’s always been very quick in the morning, so we tried slowing him down in a couple to not let him do too much. Last time, when he went 1:01 and change that was by intention.

“He seems fit and ready. We’re expecting a pretty good effort off the layoff,” Moran added.

Straight No Chaser holds a record of 7-4-0-1 with $245,800 in earnings, graduating on debut sprinting five furlongs over the Del Mar turf in July 2022 before capturing his dirt sprint debut two starts later at Santa Anita ahead of a seventh in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Malibu won by Taiba there in December.

Bred in Kentucky by John Eaton and Steve Laymon, Straight No Chaser, out of the Johannesburg mare Margarita Friday, was a $110,000 purchase at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training.

Velazquez will be in the irons from post 1.

Winning Move Stable’s Joey Freshwater [post 6, Jose Lezcano] elevates in class seeking his second graded stakes score following an impressive 3 3/4-length victory versus local optional claiming company at Saturday’s distance on April 4.

Trained by Linda Rice and piloted by Jose Lezcano, the 4-year-old Jimmy Creed bay settled 1 1/2 lengths back in fourth position early before steadily advancing and coming with a strong move in the turn to the front before bounding away to complete the six furlongs in 1:09.57.

“Obviously this is another step up, but based on his last effort, we think it is a natural progression for him,” said Rice. “Hopefully, he can reproduce that type of an effort.”

The effort was awarded a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure. He has since completed two five-furlong breezes over the Belmont Park dirt training track, most recently in 1:01.58 on May 2, the bullet for eight workers.

“It was a very nice breeze,” Rice said. “He’s trained well. He’s coming into the race very well.”

Joey Freshwater captured the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bay Shore here last April, stalking in third position 1 1/2-lengths back before a wide move to the lead in the turn to score by 1 1/4-lengths over eventual multiple graded-stakes placed Gilmore. His last-out victory and an optional claiming triumph in January were through similar stalking trips.

“I think he likes to be in a stalking position. He doesn’t like to be rushed early,” said Rice. “I think that last time he got the perfect trip. Hopefully we get that same type of set up again.”

Bred by Dr. Aaron Sones, Dr. Naoya Yoshida and Dr. Eric Crawford, Joey Freshwater, out of the winning More Than Ready mare Lake Turkana, was a $35,000 purchase at the 2022 OBS June Two-Year-Olds in Training and Horses of Racing Age Sale.

Owner-trainer David Jacobson saddles a pair of contenders in Grade 3-winner Durante [post 2, Manny Franco] and dual Grade 3-placed veteran Stage Left [post 3, Ramon Vazquez].

Durante wheels back on short rest after finishing sixth last-out in the Listed Elusive Quality, sprinting six furlongs over the outer turf here last week on Saturday, May 4. The turf sprinting attempt followed a distant off-the-board finish in the one-mile Fifth Season over the dirt in January at Oaklawn Park.

The 5-year-old Distorted Humor gelding won 5-of-10 starts in 2023, including the six-furlong Grade 3 Bold Ruler here in October before a close second in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap in November.

Stage Left enters from a third-place effort in the local Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap on March 2, his second show-honors at the level after running third in last year’s Runhappy won by Candy Man Rocket. He is cross-entered in a local Thursday optional-claimer and also-eligible for an optional claimer here on Friday.

The 8-year-old Congrats gelding joined the Jacobson barn last March after previously being trained by Mertkan Kantarmaci and has won four sprints since, notably emerging victorious in an off-the-turf edition of the King T. Leatherbury last April at Laurel Park and the Rumson in September at Monmouth Park.

Out of the graded stakes-winning Repent mare Diva Delite, Stage Left is a half-brother to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Midnight Bisou. He holds a record of 46-12-7-7 and has banked $731,983.

LC Racing’s Pennsylvania homebred Ninetyprcentmaddie [post 4, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] will cut back in distance as he looks to make the grade in his fourth attempt. Trained by Butch Reid, Jr., the 4-year-old Weigelia bay finished second in his seasonal bow in the seven-furlong state-bred Page McKenney Handicap on April 22 at Parx Racing.

Ninetyprcentmaddie made 10 starts as a sophomore including wins in the six-furlong Carle Place here in October and the one-mile and 70-yards City of Brotherly Love in March at Parx. In graded attempts, he finished off-the-board in the local Grade 3 Withers and Parx’s Grade 2 Gallant Bob and Grade 3 Smarty Jones.

Out of the stakes-placed Private Interview mare Amblin Easy, Ninetyprcentmaddie is a full-brother to stakes-placed Ninetypercentbrynn. He holds a record of 15-5-4-2 with $385,180 in earnings.

Rounding out the field is the Charlton Baker-trained stakes-placed Twenty Four Mamba [post 5, Dylan Davis] for owners PlayingTheField Racing, Final Turn Racing Stable, WLIR Racing Stables and Acqua Nova Stable. The 5-year-old Classic Empire gelding was sixth last out in the seven-furlong Frank Y. Whiteley on April 13 at Laurel.

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