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ELMONT, NY – Gayla Rankin’s Happy Soul was hustled out of the gate by Hall of Famer John Velazquez and never relinquished control en route to an 11 1/2-length score in Thursday’s $150,000 Astoria, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint for juvenile fillies at Belmont Park on Day One of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
Trained by Wesley Ward, the bay daughter of Runhappy entered from a similarly dominant score on May 13 at Belmont when 11 3/4 lengths the best in a 5-furlong maiden special weight.
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Velazquez urged the $50,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase from the gate and quickly established command as American Bound, under Luis Saez, applied pressure to her outside through an opening 1/4-mile in 21.92 seconds on the fast main track.
Happy Soul extended her advantage into the turn through a 1/2-mile in 45.74 as Constitution Gal moved up along the rail into third. In hand and in command at the top of the lane, Happy Soul enjoyed a 6 1/2-length lead at the stretch call and continued to find more en route to a facile score in a final time of 1:05.69.
Constitution Gal completed the exacta by 1 1/4-lengths over She’s So Shiny. Rounding out the order of finish was American Bound and Midsummer Nights. Mainstay was scratched.
Velazquez said he had to ask the speedy filly from the moment the latch sprung.
“She fell asleep in the gate. She wasn’t paying attention,” said Velazquez. “I had to use her coming out of there, which normally I don’t want to do with (Ward’s) horses because they go so fast, but I had to do it.
“Once I got out of there, I got into the position she wants,” he continued. “I just let her take her speed wherever she wanted to go.”
Ward said the improving filly will step up to graded company next out in the $200,000 Adirondack (G2), a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for juvenile fillies on August 8 at Saratoga.
“She was 1/9, so obviously we were in the right spot,” said Ward. “We’ll have to step up in class and company next. She’ll get back to Keeneland and prepare for the Adirondack at Saratoga.”
Bred in Kentucky by Harris Training Center, Happy Soul banked $87,000 in victory. She paid $2.30 for a $2 win ticket.
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