By Derek Simon
Runhappy makes his first start for his new/old connections on Saturday in the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
As most racing fans who haven’t been living in a pod (and even some that have) know, there was an abundance of controversy after Runhappy won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and, shortly thereafter, the colt’s trainer, Maria Borell, was dismissed (“sacked” for you English blokes).
Borell has since found employment with Drawing Away Stables and Runhappy has returned to the care of Laura Wohlers.
A three-year-old son of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, Runhappy is the only Grade I winner in the Malibu and should get a nice trip either on or just off what figures to be a moderate pace (projected early speed ration of -5).
The lightly-raced Watershed, who finished a closing fourth behind Runhappy in the King’s Bishop, looks like the primary danger. The well-bred son of champion Bernardini and Thousand Islands (a stakes winner in France and dam of the Grade I-placed Footbridge) has plenty of room to improve and could be in the catbird’s seat should Bad Read Sanchez, who dons blinkers for the first time, push the BC champ early.
The other thing to keep an eye on is the dirt surface at Santa Anita. In preparation for El Niño and a potential wet winter, track officials have been tinkering with the track and, according to what I heard, have added three inches of sand and clay to the base — which could make for a very tiring seven-furlong journey in the Malibu.