Champion male sprinter Runhappy is arguably one of the more beloved of the 2015 Eclipse Award winners, but the drama surrounding his connections put a bit of a damper on his campaign, in particular his title-clinching performance in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland.
Bred in Kentucky by Wayne Lyster, Gray Lyster, and Bryan Lyster, Runhappy was a $200,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase for Jim McIngvale, a Houston-based businessman known as “Mattress Mack” for his Gallery Furniture chain. Initially trained by McIngvale’s sister-in-law, Laura Wohlers, Runhappy debuted at Turfway Park in the waning days of 2014 and blitzed his rivals by more than eight lengths on the Polytrack surface.
Stepping up to face stakes foes in his 2015 debut, the January 17 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds, Runhappy was bumped hard at the break and around the first turn, briefly took the lead down the backside, and then wilted to ninth in the field of 11.
Emerging from the Lecomte with a hairline fracture, Runhappy was given time off and then transferred to 32-year-old Maria Borell in Kentucky, whose start-stop training career had to that point resulted in no trips to the winner’s circle. Under her conditioning, though, Runhappy blossomed and would win five straight.
Following back-to-back allowance wins at Indiana Grand and Ellis Park in July, Runhappy shipped to Saratoga for the August 29 King’s Bishop (G1). Breaking from post 11 in the seven-furlong dash, Runhappy took an early lead and drew off impressively to win by four lengths under Edgar Prado.
Prado was back aboard for the October 2 Phoenix (G3), a course-and-distance Breeders’ Cup prep at Keeneland. Again showing early foot, Runhappy overcame a slow start from post 1 and a late saddle slip to beat older rivals, including 2014 sprint champion Work All Week, by a two-length margin.
In the October 31 Breeders’ Cup over six furlongs, Runhappy again broke tardily but was in close attendance as Favorite Tale and Private Zone dueled for the early lead. Showing a new dimension rallying from slightly off the pace, Runhappy wore down Private Zone in the final furlong to win by three parts of length, essentially clinching the male sprint title right there.
Approximately a day after the Sprint, long-festering disagreements between McIngvale and Borell regarding Runhappy’s training regimen and other matters resulted in the colt’s removal from Borell’s barn. The airing of grievances was conducted publicly in the press and on various social media forums.
Runhappy was returned to Wohlers’ care and made a final start in the December 26 Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita. In a race that wasn’t going to affect the colt’s championship status one way or the other, the son of Super Saver nonetheless went about his business with a 3 1/2-length victory in the seven-furlong test.
Produced by the Broken Vow mare Bella Jolie, Runhappy concluded 2015 with a mark of 7-6-0-0, $1,466,900. Adding his maiden win at two, his career earnings are now $1,481,300.
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