“Smile Happy was a very easy-going colt since birth,” Moreau commented. “He was very correct and strong the day he was born.
“I try to breed attractive athletes – he has a nice head with big, smart eyes.”
The yet-unnamed colt was slated to be sold as a weanling at Keeneland November, and there was no shortage of interest in him in the build-up. The nearly nine-month old was inspected “at least 150 times in two days,” yet showed poise throughout the process.
“He was an absolute professional at the sale,” Moreau said. “He stood like ‘look at me,’ always good on his feet showing well from the first show to the last.”
“I had three groups of potential buyers who wanted to buy him before the auction,” Moreau revealed. “Made an offer which I didn’t take, and I was very happy that I didn’t take it, after he did sell at the Keeneland November auction!”
When the colt took his turn through the ring as Hip No. 1190, he brought $175,000. The winning bidder, Cooper Bloodstock, was a group including Adrian Regan of Hunter Valley Farm. Ironically, the Moreau-bred Bushfire herself had spent time at Hunter Valley, but in entirely different circumstances, as a brief freshening in the midst of her racing career.
Smile Happy would be prepared for resale as a yearling under the Hunter Valley banner. The handsome youngster made a deep impression as he developed at the Versailles, Kentucky, farm.
“We loved the horse,” Regan said. “We absolutely loved the horse the whole way along.”
While he was kind and well-mannered, the yearling’s defining characteristic reflected pure class.
“The lasting feature of this horse for me was his presence,” Regan summed up. “He knew he was good.”
Yet by the time Fasig-Tipton’s Selected Yearlings Showcase rolled around, an ad hoc creation due to the pandemic’s roiling of the 2020 sales calendar, the market wasn’t that interested in Runhappy as a sire. His first crop was hitting the track, but the general insistence on quick returns, and the what-have-you-done-for-me lately mentality, worked against Runhappy as his second crop was trying to gain attention as sales yearlings.
Trainer Ken McPeek, however, is never one to be put off by that. Famous for buying future Hall of Famer Curlin for $57,000 and champion Swiss Skydiver for $35,000, he went to $185,000 to snare Smile Happy for Lucky Seven Stable.
“People were cooling off on Runhappy,” Regan noted. “It’s a testament to the horse that he brought the price he did.”
Indeed, Smile Happy was the most expensive of the 50 Runhappy yearlings sold in 2020, selling for more than four times the sire’s average price of $39,524.
Regan was involved in another syndicate (headed by Ted Campion) that sold a colt to McPeek for $210,000 at Keeneland September. That yearling, prepared on Campion’s Dundrum Farm, turned out to be Rattle N Roll. A fellow colorbearer of Michael J. Mackin’s Lucky Seven Stable, Rattle N Roll romped in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) before Smile Happy made his career debut.
But Smile Happy soon rocketed to the forefront, ranking as the favorite, among the individual betting interests, in the first four pools of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. After his victorious premiere on Oct. 29 at Keeneland, Smile Happy turned in a sparkling display in the Nov. 27 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), emulating grandsire Super Saver who dominated the same Churchill Downs feature in 2009. The form of Smile Happy’s victory held up, as he beat future graded winners White Abarrio, Classic Causeway, and Call Me Midnight. Although he sustained his first loss in the Feb. 19 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, Smile Happy was a strong-finishing second from a tactically tough position.
For his final Derby prep, Smile Happy returns to the scene of his maiden conquest in Saturday’s Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland. Rattle N Roll is also entered, the first time that the Lucky Seven stablemates have crossed swords in a race.
Smile Happy will likely be favored to revisit the winner’s circle, where he can strike a pose and attract admiration. But whatever transpires on the track, he’ll always know that he is good.