06/11/2013 1:51PM

Belmont Park: My Happy Face returns for $90K Lotka

Barbara D. Livingston
My Happy Face has not run since a runner-up finish to Kauai Katie in the Jan. 26 Forward Gal Stakes.

After eight stakes last Friday and Saturday, the hits keep on coming Thursday at Belmont Park, with a trio of overnight stakes for the female set.

The $90,000 Lotka, race 3, marks the return of My Happy Face, who has not run since a runner-up finish to Kauai Katie in the Jan. 26 Forward Gal Stakes and makes her first start for trainer Chad Brown.

My Happy Face closed out her juvenile season with a hard-fought victory in the Grade 3 Tempted. The gray filly won or placed in all five starts for former trainer Rudy Rodriguez, including a maiden win at Saratoga by better than 21 lengths, and a memorable battle with Dreaming of Julia when beaten a head in the Frizette.

“I’ve breezed her three times and seen enough to know she’s a nice filly,” Brown said. “She came over from Rudy in excellent shape, and this is a logical spot to get a feel for her and evaluate where we stand.”

My Happy Face takes on six rivals, four of whom exit wins, including Majestic Marquet, who has won 3 of 4 since being given over to Rodriguez; and entrymates Bliss and Girl Code, who are owned and trained by Danny Gargan, a former assistant to Nick Canani who recently struck out on his own.

Gargan claimed Bliss from Brown out of a $25,000 maiden win on Apr. 3, and she has since extended her win streak to four, capped by a $75,000 optional claimer last Wednesday.

The field is completed by Diva Spirit, a Fair Hill invader getting Lasix for the first time; Giant Cats Eye, third in last year’s Demoiselle; and What You Know, who came from 10 lengths back to win her debut at Pimlico.

The $85,000 Smart and Fancy, race 4, scheduled for the Widener turf at six furlongs, drew eight for grass and four for dirt only.

Heading the turf-meant brigade are stakes winners Silver Screamer and Sensible Lady.

Silver Screamer was a $20,000 claim by Rodriguez in 2011, and has since banked well over $200,000, including wins last year in the Grade 3 Matchmaker and the Lady Baltimore. She makes her second start of the season, as was the case when she won over this course last spring.

“This is a very nice filly, and she’s got a lot of talent,” said Rodriguez, who entered the week with eight dirt wins but a 0-for-17 record on grass.

Sensible Lady has won 6 of her last 10 on turf, including the $100,000 Coronation Cup Stakes at Saratoga last summer. She ships in from Maryland after overcoming trouble in the stretch to win Pimlico’s The Very One for the second straight year.

“She got shut off 50 yards from the wire and still got there,” enthused trainer Tim Salzman. “She is a Street Sense, so I’d like to stretch her out and look for better races.”

Eight 3-year-old fillies entered the $85,000 Astronomia, race 8, scheduled for the Widener turf course at seven furlongs.

Barbie Wire (Chad Brown) and the Christophe Clement-trained Bella Castani, a pair of stretch-running winners over the course earlier at the stand, may vie for favoritism.

Bella Castani captured the Tweedside opening weekend, despite being rank early.

“Mentally, she needs to settle, but she was impressive” Clement said. “When we asked her to run, she quickened.”

Other contenders include Fearless Jacq, Fab Flowers, and Exchange Cat, the first three finishers in the Miss Otis overnight stakes on May 19.