06/11/2009 11:00PM

My Happiness capable of winning first in U.S.

Email

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Bobby Barnett has won more than 1,300 races in a training career that began in earnest in the late 1980s, after he completed a stint of several years of working under D. Wayne Lukas. His career peaked in the 1990s, with his stable recording highs in wins (135) in 1994 and earnings (nearly $4.9 million) in 1998.

In recent years, however, the stable hasn't been nearly as productive, which Barnett attributes largely to the loss of his longtime client and benefactor, John Franks, whose massive Thoroughbred holdings were dispersed shortly after his death on Dec. 31, 2003. Barnett sent out just seven winners in 2007, his lowest total since he was still working primarily as an assistant to Lukas in 1986.

"It's been a long, grinding few years," said Barnett, a Texas native who will turn 60 next month. "But hopefully we're putting it in the past."

It's not as if the man suddenly forgot how to train a racehorse. Given the right material with which to work, Barnett can compete with the best, as he demonstrated when he was the leading trainer at Churchill Downs, Oaklawn Park, and Louisiana Downs, and when horses such as Halo America, Answer Lively, Precocity, and Littlebitlively filled his stalls.

On Sunday at Churchill, Barnett will have a chance to flaunt those abilities when My Happiness finds what appears to be the softest spot since he was imported from South America last year. Winless in nine tries on this continent, the Argentine-bred My Happiness figures to outclass the opposition in the fourth race, a $52,700 second-level allowance scheduled for a mile on turf.

My Happiness, owned by Fritz McTarnahan, is a stretch-runner who should get plenty of help with the pace Sunday. Several of his six rivals (one other, Glenwood Canyon, is a main-track-only designee) are front-running types who figure to have a difficult time holding off his sustained run. Of those, Good Sermon looks most capable of holding on for a mild upset.

"We look tough in there, do we?" asked Barnett, adding in typical self-deprecation: "Good, because we need all the help we can get these days."