Among the more intriguing Breeders' Cup entries is a 3-year-old named Runhappy.
He will run Saturday in the $1.5-million, six-furlong Breeders' Cup Sprint, against a field of 13 others, including seven previous Breeders' Cup starters. Despite this, Runhappy has been given the second-favorite role in the morning line odds, at 3-1.
The trainer is a former exercise rider named Maria Borell, 32, who also tried her hand at veterinary medicine, but got her break as a trainer when she got Runhappy from owner Jim (Mattress Mack) McIngvale.
If that name sounds familiar, it is because that is the same Mattress Mac who, in promotion of his furniture store, sponsors all sorts of things in Houston, has his name on various sports promotions and guaranteed refunds — and paid off — to all customers who bought $6,000 or more worth of furniture if the Seattle Seahawks won the 2014 Super Bowl.
McIngvale's sister-in-law, Laura Wohlers, found the horse, and trained him for a while. But when duty called at the furniture store, Wohlers handed Runhappy to Borell, who told Jerry Izenberg of the Newark Star-Ledger that she has had horses who never finished a race and also once went 0 for 22 with a small barn.
Along came Runhappy and Borell has yet to lose. The horse is four for four at four tracks with Borell this year, worth $466,900, and is now ridden by veteran Edgar Prado.
It is hard to argue with Runhappy's breeding. His daddy is Super Saver, the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner.
Friday's featured race, one of four Breeders' Cup tests, is the $2-million Distaff, formerly the Ladies Classic.
According to the morning line odds, this should be among the most closely contested of all 13 Breeders' Cup races over the two days. Wedding Toast is the 4-1 favorite, followed by Sheer Drama at 9-2, Stopchargingmaria and Got Lucky at 6-1.
Untapable won the race last year, but he was scratched Thursday.
In the other three Breeders' Cup races Friday, on a day expected to be sunny and dry, Cymric is a 7-2 pick in the Juvenile Turf, Liam's Map a dominant even-money in the Dirt Mile and Harmonize 7-2 in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Star Canadian trainer Mark Casse has four starters in this year's Breeders' Cup and said Thursday that this year is going to be different. He hopes. "This year, I'm the most optimistic I've been," Casse said, "but then, that often bites me in the butt. In the past, I've felt like I have a chance to win if my horse runs a perfect race. This year, they just need to run to their ability." …
Mike Smith is the leading jockey in Breeders' Cup history with 21 victories. He will ride seven Breeders' Cup races. East Coast jockeys JohnVelazquez and Javier Castellano will each ride in 12 of the 13.