06/13/2003 11:00PM

Happy Trails rallies to win Hill Prince


ELMONT, N.Y. - The connections of Happy Trails wouldn't mind if it rained for the rest of the summer.

For the second time in three weeks, Happy Trails took advantage of a turf stakes being transferred to the dirt, this time rallying from last place to win Saturday's $113,100 Hill Prince Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths at Belmont Park. Last month, Happy Trails won the $100,000 Jersey Derby, another race originally carded for turf.

Traffic Chief, the 8-5 favorite who assumed command in the stretch, settled for second in the Hill Prince, four lengths ahead of Chilly Rooster. Region of Merit, Charge, and Elusive Gentleman completed the order of finish.

Because it was moved from turf to dirt, the Hill Prince lost its Grade 3 status pending review by the Graded Stakes Committee.

Happy Trails, under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, dropped 10 lengths off the pace down the backstretch while Charge and Chilly Rooster dueled through fractions of 23.05 seconds and 46.39. Traffic Chief, under Jose Santos, took the lead from Chilly Rooster in upper stretch, but inside the sixteenth pole was tackled by Happy Trails, who came with a powerful rush around the turn and into the stretch.

Happy Trails, owned by Sanford Goldfarb and Team Julep Stables, covered the nine furlongs in 1:50.13 over a good track. He returned $24.20 to win.

"I do think he's a horse that can potentially handle the turf, but the thing we wanted the most was to get him more distance,'' said winning trainer Steve Klesaris. "He's racing well on the dirt so I hate to change that but at some point we would try the turf. As much as it was an off the turf race, I thought it was a well-regarded field. He had to give weight to horses with good credentials."