12/05/2012 2:30PM

Gulfstream Park notes: Rodriguez, My Happy Face settle in for the winter

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Jessica Hansen/NYRA
My Happy Face wins the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes by a neck over Cut the Moon at Aqueduct.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Rudy Rodriguez is hoping the decision to skip both the Breeders’ Cup and Aqueduct’s Demoiselle with his top 2-year-old filly prospect My Happy Face will pay big dividends this winter at Gulfstream Park.

My Happy Face took the first step toward her much-anticipated 3-year-old campaign by working a crisp six furlongs in 1:13.37 from the five-furlong pole out around the clubhouse turn with Edgar Prado aboard here late Wednesday morning. My Happy Face posted splits of 35.04 seconds for her opening three-eighths and 59.20 for five furlongs over the fast track.

“I think passing the Breeders’ Cup and some of the other races in New York did her a lot of good,” said Rodriguez, who is among the leading trainers in New York this season and will campaign a string of horses at Gulfstream for the first time this winter. “I’m very excited about the way she worked this morning.”

My Happy Face gained national attention after winning her maiden by 21 lengths this summer at Saratoga. In her next start, she extended the highly regarded Dreaming of Julia before dropping a heartbreaking head decision in Belmont’s Grade 1 Frizette. My Happy Face concluded her 2-year-old campaign with another game performance, digging in to outfinish Cut the Moon by a neck in Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Tempted on Nov. 4.

“She had a couple of grueling races in New York, so we just wanted to give her a little break, and so far, so good,” said Rodriguez who trains My Happy Face for Michael Dubb. “She’ll tell us when she’s ready, and then we’ll take it from there. We’ve got a lot of options for her here, races from six furlongs to a mile and one-sixteenth. It’s a long year, we’ll take it step by step, but I’m very excited about her for sure.”

Rodriguez currently has eight horses, including My Happy Face, temporarily stabled at Gulfstream and is looking for even more stalls here for the winter.

“Originally I was planning to stable at Palm Meadows, but I’m hoping they’ll be able to find space to accommodate us right here at Gulfstream,” Rodriguez said. “I really like the way the track has been for training, it has a nice cushion, and since I’m thinking about claiming some horses down here, it would make it easier if we could stay right on the grounds.”

Rodriguez said he was a little disappointed in the way his five starters performed on opening day, including Grade 3 stakes winner Silver Screamer, who finished off the board as the favorite in the Claiming Crown Tiara.

“I think I probably should have shipped my horses down there a little earlier than we did,” Rodriguez said. “None of them really picked their feet up, they all seemed to get tired, and maybe they were all still a little knocked out from the long trip.”

◗ Kauai Katie, idle since her fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, topped Wednesday’s work tab at Palm Meadows along with stablemate El Padrino. Kauai Katie, a two-time Grade 2 winner, breezed a half-mile in 49.22, while El Padrino went five-eighths in 1:00.90. Both horses are trained by Todd Pletcher, who returned to New York on Wednesday after spending several days in south Florida inspecting his troops at Palm Meadows.

◗ Paco Lopez took off all his mounts on Wednesday’s card after walking away relatively unscathed from a nasty spill precipitated by Tiznow Mytime clipping heels and falling during the running of Sunday’s second race. Lopez is expected to return to the saddle by Friday at the latest, according to his agent, Cory Moran.