10/31/2015 4:14PM

Runhappy sets track record in Breeders' Cup Sprint

Barbara D. Livingston
Runhappy (left), ridden by Edgar Prado, takes the Breeders' Cup Sprint by three-quarters of a length Saturday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – For all the accolades Runhappy received immediately after his record-setting, three-quarter-length victory over four-time Grade 1 winner Private Zone in Saturday’s $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland, nobody paid him a bigger compliment than his own jockey, Hall of Famer Edgar Prado.

“I remember thinking after he won the Phoenix that I have only been on one horse who ran that fast and wasn’t breathing hard after the race,” said Prado. “And that was Barbaro. The similarity between this horse and Barbaro is very close.”

Runhappy capped off a magical season for himself, owner James McIngvale, and little-known trainer Maria Borell, running down the older and more-seasoned Private Zone to register his fifth consecutive victory in the six-furlong Sprint – a performance that virtually assures him of an Eclipse Award as champion sprinter of 2015.

Runhappy had been on the lead in each of the four previous victories during his streak but found himself in somewhat unfamiliar territory after breaking a bit slowly, as he normally does, and chasing the early leaders, Holy Boss and Private Zone, down the backstretch and into the turn.

It was Private Zone who won the early battle, edging clear leaving the furlong grounds, but Runhappy had plenty left in the tank, ultimately running down the leader to win going away.

Favorite Tale raced forwardly and loomed boldly out past the center of the course near midstretch but flattened out a bit, finishing third, a length behind Private Zone.

Runhappy, a 3-year-old son of Super Saver, completed the distance over a fast track in 1:08.54, a track record. He went postward as the 8-5 favorite in the full field of 14 speedsters and returned $5.20.

“The first time I got on him six months ago, he worked seven-eighths of a mile in 1:22, and I knew he was something special,” said Prado. “And every time I ride him, he just gets better and better. And even though he’s been on the lead in most of his races, he’s easy to rate. I think he’ll be even better going a mile.”

Borell, who wept in the winner’s circle, has now won six races this year from just eight starters, with all of her victories coming with Runhappy.

“I’ll be honest: When he wasn’t on the lead, I was a little nervous around the turn,” said Borell. “I didn’t think he’d be a fan of getting all that kickback in his face. But once he got in the clear, I knew we’d be okay. This is unbelievable, unreal, a track record, oh my God. He’s such a cool horse; he’s got a great personality. I don’t think he knows how really talented he is.”

McIngvale called the Breeders’ Cup Sprint the biggest win of his career.

“My wife is at home,” said McIngvale. “She’s been very nervous about the money I spend in horse racing. But she’s happy today. We’re going to race this horse again next year, and I think he’ll be even better at a mile.”

Trainer Jorge Navarro said he thought the fact that Private Zone’s final work here last week did not go according to plan, in part because he had to hastily send the horse out to breeze when informed at the last minute that the track was going to be sealed after the break, might have cost him the victory.

“The workout, that’s what cost me,” said Navarro. “He didn’t have that kick. Nobody thought he was that fast. I told [stable manager] Rene Douglas, ‘You’re going to be surprised how fast he’s going to come out of that gate.’ But how much can you ask? It took a nice horse, a very nice horse, and a track record to beat us. But my first Breeders’ Cup, finishing second, I can’t complain.”