06/13/2013 3:45PM

Belmont Park: My Happy Face wins comeback, Coaching Club may be next

Courtney Heeney/NYRA
My Happy Face wins the Lotka Stakes under Joel Rosario.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The last time My Happy Face ran a one-mile race at Belmont Park, she was part of a stirring stretch duel that she ultimately lost to Dreaming of Julia by a head in the Grade 1 Frizette last fall.

Thursday, in the one-mile Lotka Stakes, My Happy Face had to work hard to get by the pacesetting Girl Code, but once she did, My Happy Face edged clear for a 2 1/2-length victory that likely will set her up for a return to Grade 1 company in next month’s Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga.

“We were looking at the Coaching Club at Saratoga all along with this horse, that’s why we ran her now when we did, the timing was right to get a race in her,” said trainer Chad Brown, who was running My Happy Face for the first time. “It was probably worth a handful of works today so it should work out pretty well.”

Making her first start since finishing second to Kauai Katie in the Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream on Jan. 26, My Happy Face stalked Girl Code through a quarter in 23.15 seconds, a half-mile in 46.10, and six furlongs in 1:10.32.

Under some aggressive handling from Joel Rosario, My Happy Face corralled Girl Code inside the eighth pole and gradually pulled away. She covered one mile in 1:35.89 and returned $3 as the 1-2 favorite in the field of five.

“I was second behind that horse on the lead, it kind of took a little bit of time to get passed that horse, then after she got passed her she was okay,” Rosario said. “She looked good and maybe this race will get her a little better for the next one.”

My Happy Face, who won the Grade 3 Tempted last fall when in the barn of Rudy Rodriguez, has been in Brown’s care for less than a month. He was able to breeze her three times for this race.

“If she was a little short, I handicapped this in as being her final bit of work,” Brown said. “She didn’t need to win by a million lengths for me to like her. There’s a strong head wind today and the filly on the front actually ran quite well. I’m more interested how she comes out of the race and how she trains from here on to Saratoga.”

Smart and Fancy Stakes: Munnings Sister runs down pacesetter

One race later on Thursday’s card, Munnings Sister ($5.20) took over from pacesetting Ballistic Sue in upper stretch and easily outfinished Sounds of the City to win the $85,000 Smart and Fancy Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths. Sounds of the City finished second by 1 3/4 lengths over Ann’s Smart Dancer.

The Smart and Fancy was originally scheduled for the turf, but was moved to the dirt due to rain. Munnings Sister ran six furlongs in 1:09.96.

Munnings Sister, trained by Barclay Tagg, has now won two consecutive overnight sprint stakes at Belmont and is 6 for 12 for owner/breeder  Charles Fipke.

Munnings Sister was entered in Saturday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Bed o’ Roses Handicap, but will scratch out of that seven-furlong race.