06/17/2005 11:00PM

Happy Ticket proves she's the real deal

Benoit & Associates
Happy Ticket remains unbeaten by taking the Chicago BC Handicap.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Happy Ticket left Louisiana for the first time, but she brought her knack for winning to Chicago.

Louisiana-breds and overmatched listed stakes horses had fallen flimsily as Happy Ticket won the first eight starts of her career. In the ninth, she beat graded stakes horses, taking Saturday's Grade 3, $175,000 at Arlington with another open-lengths victory.

Happy Ticket, making the lead at the top of the stretch and opening up daylight in the final furlong, beat Savorthetime by 3 1/2 lengths. Injustice was another half-length back in third, with odds-on favorite My Trusty Cat finishing a flat fourth. Happy Ticket ($7.60) was timed in 1:22.54 for seven furlongs.

By winning, Happy Ticket crossed the halfway mark toward a milestone. The modern-era record for consecutive wins is 16. That's a long way still to go, but Happy Ticket cleared a major hurdle, stepping up significantly in class while leaving her native Louisiana for the first time.

"There's always that doubt about how they'll handle it," said Andy Leggio, the New Orleans native who trains Happy Ticket. "But her numbers indicated she would be able to run with these horses."

Happy Ticket arrived here by van last Sunday. As smart as she is sleek, Happy Ticket smoothly settled into life on the road.

"She ate up everything the first night here," Leggio said.

The tough part came her first step into Saturday's race. Happy Ticket stumbled slightly leaving the gate. Leggio cried out, "Oh no!"

But Happy Ticket, with Eddie Razo handling her well, quickly righted herself, and ran up to press the slow early pace - 23.29 seconds for a quarter-mile, 46.26 for a half - set by Silver Crown. Racing with her ears pinned back, and running wide on the far turn, Happy Ticket started closing in at the three-eighths pole, and reached the front at the top of the stretch.

"When she switched leads, she just took off," Razo said.

As Happy Ticket sprinted clear in deep stretch, Razo gave a couple extra whacks, fearing a late run from My Trusty Cat. He needn't have worried.

"We got to the three-eighths, and I was kind of asking her to stay there," said My Trusty Cat's rider, Shaun Bridgmohan.

Not that there's any shame in losing to Happy Ticket. No one has beaten her yet.