Champion sprinter Runhappy signaled his fitness and sharpness during his second timed workout of 2016, drilling 5 furlongs in :58 flat over the Keeneland main track early Thursday morning.
One week after the turning in a three-furlong move in his first serious move since December, the reigning Breeders’ Cup Sprint victor took exercise rider Marcus O’Donnell through a half mile in :44 4/5, per Keeneland clockers, with a gallop out in 1:11 3/5 on Thursday.
As the 4-year-old son of Super Saver cooled out before being vanned back to his base at The Thoroughbred Center, trainer Laura Wohlers declared her charge was on track to make his seasonal bow in the Grade III Ack Ack, going one mile at Churchill Downs on Oct. 1.
“From now on, it’s just getting those distances out there, getting him prepared to go a mile,” Wohlers said. “I feel like we’re on schedule now for the Ack Ack. We were a little concerned with only having basically six weeks to start breezing him and get him prepared. We’re trying to get him to relax a little bit and get him to understand he doesn’t have to do 10s and change and 11s. But we’ll take him to Churchill probably in a couple weeks to see how he likes the surface.”
Plagued by foot ailments and bone bruising this season, Runhappy has not started since winning the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Dec. 26, an exclamation point on a year that had already seen him dazzle fans with victories in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Grade I King’s Bishop en route to earning the Eclipse Award for champion male sprinter.
James McIngvale’s colt was blowing more following Thursday’s move compared to last week, but nonetheless impressed the early morning onlookers that included Doug Cauthen, vice chairman of Three Chimneys Farm, and WinStar Farm president Elliott Walden.
“I just think this year he’s bigger and stronger,” Wohlers said. “He’s definitely changed physically from 3 to 4 and he’s getting close to being 5 soon. He’s just really grown up and filled out. He’s using himself better this year and differently and everyone has done a great job with him.
“He came out of his breeze very well last week and if he comes out as good this week, I’ll be thrilled. I think this work was a little harder on him this morning, he’s having to catch his breath a little bit this morning. But that’s part of getting fit.”
Wohlers said she would likely have jockey Edgar Prado come in to work Runhappy at Churchill in the coming weeks prior to the Ack Ack. She also reiterated that they are looking at taking a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita Park this November rather than having Runhappy attempt to defend his title in the Sprint.
“We’ll see how he runs in the Ack Ack, but we definitely want to do the (Dirt) Mile,” Wohlers said. “I think he’ll do fine going a mile, we never had a question about that. We feel like he will go longer, he doesn’t move like a sprinter. He has that long stride and doesn’t act like he gets tired at the end of that 6 furlongs like most sprinters do.
“He’s just something else. It’s hard to find ones like that.”
Runhappy has won seven of eight career starts and has earnings of $1,481,300.