Hi Happy Gets His North American G1 In Man O’War

La Providencia’s homebred Hi Happy put together back-to-back victories when he surged to the wire a half-length winner in Saturday’s Grade 1 Man o’War Stakes at Belmont Park, adding to his most recent triumph and first North American victory in Gulfstream’s G2 Pan American. The 6-year-old son of Pure Prize, a native of Argentina, is now a G1 winner in two countries for his owners. Ridden by Luis Saez for trainer Todd Pletcher, Hi Happy was the favorite at 9-5, defeating 5-2 second choice Sadler’s Joy when he completed 11 furlongs over the rain-softened inner turf in 2:14.79.

“It was just a perfect trip, exactly what we were hoping for,” Pletcher said. “He delivered a big performance. We’re very proud of him. We’ll see how he bounces out of it. I suppose the [Grade 1, $1 million Woodford Reserve] Manhattan is a possibility.”

Hi Happy broke sharply for Saez, striding out in front for the first sixteenth of a mile with his ears pricked. One Go All Go, leaving from the outermost starting position, swooped around the outside to take command approaching the clubhouse turn, and Hi Happy rated kindly into the stalking position. Those two were tracked by Catcho en Die, Bigger Picture, Postulation, Wake Forest, a very rank Call Provision, and Sadler’s Joy trailing the field.

Through fractions of :23.95, :49.50, and 1:15.15 One Go All Go led the way, drawing away by as much as four lengths down the backstretch. Hi Happy and Catcho en Die began to advance toward the leader as they rounded into the far turn. Sadler’s Joy was still last at the five-sixteenths pole, as jockey Julien Leparoux tried to find a route not 10 paths wide in the bend toward the wire.

Hi Happy drew up alongside One Go All Go’s flank with relative ease, and when Saez asked him for his top gear, the horse responded brilliantly. Surging toward the wire with a giant step, Hi Happy cruised toward the wire with the lead. Sadler’s Joy was closing quickly down the center of the course, but he would come up just half a length shy at the wire. One Go All Go had to settle for third, while Call Provision checked in fourth.

“He was perfect,” said Saez. “He broke pretty good, pretty clean, sharp. He was right there in the perfect position. We has a feeling we would be right there, but everything came so well. When we came to the three-eighths, he was ready to run. I felt the other horses coming, but he never gave up. He was always trying so I just kept going with him and he finished very strongly.”

Bred in Argentina, Hi Happy was undefeated through four Group 1 efforts and seven starts in his home country. Transferred to the United States, Hi Happy only made three starts in 2017, his best result a third. This season, the horse began with a third-place finish in the G1 Gulfstream Park Turf, and rebounded to win the G2 Pan American in his next effort. With two wins in a row, Hi Happy’s overall record has improved to eight wins from 13 starts, with earnings of approximately $1.1 million.

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