May 26, 2024

Happy Farm continues progress in Fall Highweight

Happy Farm defeated Wonderful Light (left) and Recruiting Ready (right) in the Fall Highweight (NYRA/Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand)

One day after Jason Servis sent out Maximum Security to victory in the Cigar Mile H. (G1), the trainer celebrated another graded score at Aqueduct with class climber Happy Farm in Sunday’s $206,100 Fall Highweight H. (G3).

The M and A Racing runner, on the upgrade since being claimed for $30,000 here in March, made his stakes debut in this spot. But he’d had to wait a bit for his chance after the feature was twice postponed on account of weather, first on Thanksgiving and then December 1.

Sent off at 7-1 with Jorge Vargas Jr., Happy Farm prompted Strike Power through an opening quarter in :22.55, took over at the half in :45.96, and put his pace rival away. Recruiting Ready, the 1-2 favorite, tried to kick on from his stalking spot, only to find it tough to gain under 132 pounds. Wonderful Light, toting 127 pounds, closed more effectively but still couldn’t get past.

Happy Farm, who carried 125 pounds, had three-quarters of a length to spare over Wonderful Light in 1:11.91. Recruiting Ready was another half-length adrift in third. The top three pulled clear of Seethisquick, with Strike Power barely holding fifth from the very slow-starting No Distortion. Nicodemus was scratched after running ninth in the Cigar Mile.

“My horse broke quick,” Vargas said, “and the assistant (Henry Argueta) told me he was going to be sharp. I just tried to relax him. By the turn, he was going quick, but he was relaxed. I smooched at him a little bit and he jumped on it right away. When they came to me, I had something to fight back with.”

Happy Farm rewarded his backers with $16.40 while advancing his record to 19-8-4-2, $398,888. The Ghostzapper gelding has won four straight for his new connections. At Belmont, he progressed from a starter allowance to a $40,000 claiming romp and most recently an optional claimer (for which he was not eligible for the tag).

Bred by Rustlewood Farm in Florida, Happy Farm sold for $45,000 as an OBS August yearling and later became popular at the claim box. The five-year-old is out of the Holy Bull mare Gospel Girl, who had a banner weekend herself. Happy Farm’s half-brother Take Charge Dude just placed third in Saturday’s Claiming Crown Express at Gulfstream Park.

Earlier on Sunday’s card, Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred Pauseforthecause wired the $102,750 Garland of Roses over the same trip in the same time of 1:11.91. The Kiaran McLaughlin filly crossed the wire 2 1/2 lengths clear of market rival Our Circle of Love. Both were dispatched at 1.30-1, with Pauseforthecause slightly favored. The 7-2 third choice, New Year’s Wish, missed the break and rallied furiously for third.

“Coming in knowing we had the one-hole, our goal was to break good,” winning rider Manny Franco said. “When we got out of there, I just hustled her forward to get position early. I didn’t know anyone else was going to go with us, but when the seven-horse (Our Circle of Love) went forward as well, I just went onward with her. Our goal was to get the lead. She carried me there and was happy in front. She got it done today and I had plenty of horse in the lane. It was a good performance for her today.”

Pauseforthecause was extending her winning streak to three, including the Iroquois on Empire Showcase Day last out. The lure of the New York-bred program is likely to keep her here over the winter, when she’ll have opportunities to pad her 23-7-4-6, $518,793 mark. The four-year-old is by Giant’s Causeway and out of Grade 1-placed multiple stakes winner Spritely, a Touch Gold half-sister to multiple Grade 3 victress Ailalea.