The fastest five days in horse racing now is officially the Runhappy Meet at Kentucky Downs, thanks to a sponsorship agreement with Houston furniture magnate Jim McIngvale, owner of the former sprint champion and current stallion Runhappy.
The Runhappy Meet at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky., runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 5, 7, 8 and 12, featuring exclusively grass racing over North America's only European-style turf course. First post each day has been moved up to 12:15 p.m. Central this year.
Runhappy, North America's 2015 Eclipse Award champion sprinter and Breeders' Cup Sprint winner, is in his second career as a member of storied Claiborne Farm's stallion band. Runhappy's first crop of 2-year-olds will hit the racetrack in 2020 but they have sold well as weanlings and yearlings.
“I think it's a perfect fit: Kentucky Downs is America's most unique race meet, and Runhappy the most unique American racehorse we've seen in recent years, with his speed, quality and competing without any medication,” McIngvale said. “One of Kentucky Downs' meet mottos is 'It's gonna be quick.' What better horse to sponsor that than our brilliantly quick Runhappy?”
Kentucky Downs' $700,000, Grade 3 sprint stakes for 3-year-olds and older horses has been renamed the Runhappy Turf Sprint. The six-furlong stakes is a “Win and You're In” race as part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series, with the winner receiving an entry fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. Kentucky Downs also will award the Runhappy Turf Sprint winner a $1 million bonus if the horse goes on to win Keeneland's Grade 2 Woodford and the Breeders' Cup.
At $2.3 million, Kentucky Downs again offers the highest average daily purses in America, Europe and Hong Kong. The meet the past few years has produced North America's largest fields and among the lowest takeout rates — the amount taken off the top of each dollar wagered that goes toward purses, the track and parimutuel taxes.
The Runhappy Meet at Kentucky Downs will feature a celebratory champagne toast afterward for the winners of each of the 14 stakes, which total $7.4 million in purses and Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund supplements for Kentucky-bred horses.
“At Gallery Furniture, we put a premium on customer service and value,” McIngvale said. “So does Kentucky Downs. Runhappy is a champion, and so is Kentucky Downs. Put the two together, and the Runhappy Meet at Kentucky Downs promises to rank among the most notable in the world.”
The iconic Houston businessman and philanthropist nicknamed “Mattress Mack” is known for his colorful on-air persona in ads for his Gallery Furniture stores. McIngvale repeated a promotion this May to repay customers who spent at least $3,000 on mattresses and beds if the Astros won the World Series, a pledge upon which he made good in 2017 when Houston brought baseball's biggest title to Texas for the first time.
“We are thrilled to team with Jim McIngvale and Runhappy,” said Ron Winchell, Kentucky Downs' co-managing partner. “The only thing faster than Runhappy sprinting is Mattress Mack coming up with creative promotions. It's a great partnership. We both are extremely serious about our businesses offering a high-quality product, with Kentucky Downs and Mattress Mack showing you can also have fun and be entertaining.”
Runhappy is from the first crop sired by 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. After winning his debut by 8 1/4 lengths, Runhappy was injured in his second start during a roughly run edition of the Fair Grounds' Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes. He returned 5 1/2 months later to win six straight races in 2015, including the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga, the Breeders' Cup Sprint in track record time at Keeneland and Santa Anita's Grade 1 Malibu.
Runhappy also is the title sponsor of Saratoga's Runhappy Travers (G1) and Belmont Park's Runhappy Metropolitan Mile (G1), along with Del Mar's Runhappy Oceanside Stakes and Runhappy Del Mare Futurity (G1).
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