Happy Like a Fool made a successful return to stateside racing when drawing off in Sunday’s $147,000 Matron Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park to score by 2 1/4 lengths under jockey Tyler Gaffalione.
The duo were in no hurry early as Valuable Package set the opening half-mile splits of :22.87 and :46.21. Happy Like a Fool ranged up to that rival’s outside rounding the turn, exchanging a slight bump, but then grabbed control of the race and drew off to be four lengths clear in the lane.
Gaffalione geared the Wesley Ward pupil down in the shadow of the wire, crossing under the line in a final time of 1:10.98 for six furlongs on the fast main track.
“The filly broke real sharp,” Gaffalione said. “Wesley said just place her wherever she wants to be. He said he’d been working her behind horses so it shouldn’t be any problem, wherever she’s comfortable. And he said she’s been working like a monster and she came out here and ran like a monster today.
“All the credit goes to Wesley and the owners. I was lucky enough to be able to hang on. She absolutely had a quick turn of foot. I wasn’t too worried at the top of the lane, I had a lot of horse and she definitely responded when I asked her.”
“She’s got a very nice mind,” said Ward, who also bred the juvenile miss. “We were looking for her to settle early on, and so we took the blinkers off and she did that. We just wanted to see if she could do this and she did. We’ll sit down and talk to the owners from here. What she showed me in the mornings came out here this afternoon and next year’s going to be a very big year for her.”
Take Charge Paula followed in second under Paco Lopez, who lodged an objection against the winner for interference in the stretch. Happy Like a Fool angled over toward the inside upon hitting the lane, causing Take Charge Paula to take up briefly, but the stewards dismissed the claim and declared the race official.
Happy Like a Fool paid $3.20 as the 3-5 favorite in the Matron. Take Charge Paula was easily best of the rest, eight lengths up on Valuable Package, who was followed under the wire by Tarawa and Honey Graeme.
Happy Like a Fool took her debut by four lengths on April 9 at Keeneland, which earned her a trip overseas to Royal Ascot in England for a try in the Queen Mary Stakes (Eng-G2). The Distorted Humor filly filled the second spot in that contest and showed up last out at York on August 24 where she ran sixth, beaten 3 3/4 lengths, in the Lowther Stakes (Eng-G2).
Campaigned by Merriebelle Stable, Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier, Happy Like a Fool improved her career mark to 4-2-1-0, $160,191.
The Kentucky-bred chestnut is out of the Sky Mesa mare Lastofthesummerwine and comes from the same female family as Grade 1 winners Nine Keys and Silver Voice as well as Grade 1-scoring sire French Colonial. Happy Like a Fool is a half-sister to Canadian Grade 2 victor Conquest Panthera and Grade 2 runner-up Maniacal.