ELMONT, NY – Trainer Wesley Ward made the correct call choosing to run Happy Like A Fool in Sunday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Matron Stakes as she drew away under a hand ride to win the day’s feature event at Belmont Park.
Breaking from post 3 under Tyler Gaffalione, Happy Like A Fool was bumped at the start by the early leader, Valuable Package, who led through initial splits of :22.87 and :46.21. By the 1/2-mile marker, Happy Like A Fool had rallied to pull up alongside the leader, and on the turn for home, she kicked away clear. The 2-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor hit the finish line first by 2 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:10.98.
“The filly broke real sharp,” Gaffalione said. “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. 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.”
Take Charge Paula took second, 8 lengths ahead of a fading Valuable Package, who held on for third by 3/4 of a length over Tarawa. Honey Graeme was never a factor and finished fifth to complete the order of finish.
Owned by a parternship between Merriebelle Stable, Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Mrs. John Magnier, Happy Like A Fool improved her record to 4-2-1-0 with career earnings of $160,197. Cross-entered in Saturday’s Grade 3 Futurity against males, Ward decided to run his budding filly against her own kind a day later.
“She’s got a very nice mind,” Ward said. “We were looking for her to settle early on, and so we took the blinkers off and she did that. 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.”
Happy Like A Fool returned $3.20 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.10 to show. Take Charge Paula brought back $3.80 to place and $4.90 to show, while Valuable Package paid $6.40 to show.