March 23, 2023

Happy Like a Fool faces boys in Futurity; Rubilinda steps up in Pebbles

Happy Like a Fool (right) was runner-up to Heartache in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Happy Like a Fool has already experienced much in her young racing career, including two trips to England. On Saturday, she will attempt to outrun colts for the first time as one of six juveniles in the $150,000 Futurity (G3) at Belmont Park.

A four-length debut winner on dirt at Keeneland in April, the daughter of Distorted Humor was part of a healthy Wesley Ward-trained contingent partaking in the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting in June. An odds-on favorite in the Queen Mary (G2), Happy Like a Fool failed to replicate the success of stablemate Lady Aurelia, who had won the year before, but still ran credibly to finish second in the five-furlong test.

Happy Like a Fool was back in England for the August 24 Lowther (G2) at York’s Ebor meeting, but could not stay the six furlongs on good-to-soft ground. She races without blinkers for the first time in the Futurity, a former highlight of the juvenile calendar won most recently by a filly in 1965 when Priceless Gem defeated Hall of Famer Buckpasser.

The Hopeful (G1) has proven to be a key race with Free Drop Billy and Firenze Fire rebounding from defeat in that seven-furlong fixture to win the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Champagne (G1), respectively, last weekend. Mojovation was another also-ran in the Hopeful, fading to seventh when backed down to 3-1. The Todd Pletcher trainee had prevailed at odds-on in his debut in late July at Saratoga, winning by two lengths.

Chad Brown has also entered an odds-on maiden winner from the Saratoga season in Engage, who won by a half-length on the Hopeful undercard on Labor Day. The son of Into Mischief was the beaten favorite in his debut the previous month, finishing second to National Flag.

Favored in all three starts to date, Barry Lee has won twice, including the $75,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity on Polytrack. A debut winner on dirt at Laurel, his only setback was an eighth-place effort in the Saratoga Special (G2).

The field is rounded out Red Peril, who invades from Gulfstream off an August 20 debut victory, and Smooth B, a last-out allowance winner at Laurel with five starts under his belt already.

The most lucrative event on Saturday’s card at Belmont is the $200,000 Pebbles for three-year-old fillies at one mile on the Widener turf. The Chad Brown-trained duo of Rubilinda, a stakes winner over six furlongs last time, and Thais, a multiple Group 3-placed stakes winner who finished second against allowance foes in her U.S. debut, figure to attract much support.

Multiple stakes winner Party Boat, meanwhile, comes off back-to-back placings in the Lake George (G3) and Lake Placid (G2) at Saratoga for Graham Motion.

“She’s done great, she’s a very straightforward filly,” Motion said. “I wanted to give her plenty of time off after her Saratoga efforts, and this will probably be her last start of the year. She’s been really consistent and a real pleasure.

“I think the mile suits her a little better. I thought a mile and an eighth was a bit of a stretch [in the Lake Placid], to be honest.”

The race’s other multiple stakes winners are Adorable Miss, third to Rubilinda in the $100,000 Christiecat at Belmont on September 8, and Dynatail, winner earlier this year of the $200,000 Penn Oaks.