Making her first start in North America since breaking her maiden last Spring at Keeneland, Happy Like a Fool earned her first graded stakes win in only her third career start besting a field of five in Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Matron Sunday at Belmont Park.
Happy Like a Fool broke from post 3 without blinkers for the first time as the 3-5 post-time with Tyler Gaffalione aboard, and stalked comfortably from third position as Valuable Package set fractions of 22.81 seconds for the opening quarter mile with the half in 46.21.
At the quarter-pole, Happy Like a Fool made her winning move, going three wide into the upper stretch. Taking command at the eighth-pole, she extended away to the wire, securing the victory by 2 ¼ lengths.
The Wesley Ward trainee completed the six-furlong distance in a final time of 1:10.98.
“The filly broke real sharp,” said Gaffalione. “Wesley said just place her wherever she wants to be. He said he'd been working her behind horses so it shouldn't be any problem, wherever she's comfortable. And he said she's been working like a monster and she came out here and ran like a monster today. All the credit goes to Wesley and the owners. I was lucky enough to be able to hang on. She absolutely had a quick turn of foot. I wasn't too worried at the top of the lane, I had a lot of horse and she definitely responded when I asked her.”
Returning $3.20 for a $2 win wager, the Distorted Humor filly boosted her career earnings to $160,197 for owners Merriebelle Stable, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Magnier.
Following her winning debut, Happy Like a Fool finished second at Ascot in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes and followed up with a sixth place finish in the Group 2 Lowther Stakes at York on August 24 before returning to Ward's stable at Keeneland.
“She's got a very nice mind,” said winning trainer Wesley Ward. “We were looking for her to settle early on, and so we took the blinkers off and she did that. We just wanted to see if she could do this and she did. We'll sit down and talk to the owners from here. What she showed me in the mornings came out here this afternoon and next year's going to be a very big year for her.”
Following Take Charge Paula in second was Valuable Package, Tarawa and Honey Graeme completing the order of finish.
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