Lighthouse Bay was a bit of a surprise last time out, a 21-1 winner in the Grade I Prioress on July 27, and trainer George Weaver thinks she can handle another furlong in today’s Grade I $500,000 Test at Saratoga Race Course, maybe surprising everyone again.
“Anytime we run these horses, you’re never sure what they’re going to do, but we ask them to do things to see how good they can be,” Weaver said. “I have no reason to suspect she won’t handle the seven-eighths, and we look forward to giving her a try.”
Lighthouse Bay has never raced the seven-furlong distance of the Test, her longest run a win in the $75,000 Jostle two starts back. Her biggest purse before the $300,000 Prioress was the $100,000 Smart Halo last November.
Then Weaver and owner Richlyn Farm Inc. gave her a try in July at Saratoga.
She beat three of the horses she will face today, finishing a half-length ahead of Wildcat Lily and 2 1⁄4 lengths in front of Irish Lute. So Many Ways was fourth.
Now, she’s a Grade I winner and looking to build on an already successful 3-year-old campaign in the Test, where she will break from post position 6, just outside 5-2 favorite Sweet Lulu, who is 3-for-3 in her first year of racing, but has never run a stakes race. Second choice My Happy Face is 3-1 and in post position 8, cutting back in distance to seven furlongs for the second time in her career. Lighthouse Bay is installed as the 4-1 third choice.
She breezed each week approaching the Prioress as she was coming off a freshening, but Weaver is satisfied with her fitness enough to have put just one published work into her since, going five furlongs in 1:01 1⁄5 last Saturday.
“She had one solid work going into this race, and that’s all she needs. She puts a lot of effort into her gallops,” he said. “We’re confident she’s fit enough to do her job in this race.”
Sweet Lulu ships in from California, where she won twice at Hollywood Park and to start her career — a maiden special weight and a $54,250 allowance — before taking a mile-long optional claimer at Del Mar on July 24 in her last start by 43⁄4 lengths.
Sweet Lulu trains with Jerry Hollendorfer and will be ridden by Julien Leparoux. She worked an easy five furlongs before shipping, and her previous two works were both bullets — four furlongs in 45 3⁄5 seconds, best of 48; five furlongs in 58 3⁄5 seconds, best of 68.
My Happy Face will be dropping back to seven furlongs after running her last two races at a mile and 1 1⁄8 miles, respectively. She won the mile-long Lotka and was second — by six furlongs to Princess of Sylmar — here in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks.
Mechanicville native Chad Brown, who trains My Happy Face, could have entered her in the Grade I Alabama last Saturday, but chose to avoid Princess of Sylmar by cutting distance.
“I’m not looking to run against Princess of Sylmar again anytime soon, I can tell you that,” Brown said. “I don’t know, as far as what I’m going to do after the Test, I haven’t made any plans for her. I wouldn’t be opposed to stretching her out again. I thought her first two-turn race, she ran quite well but was second-best.”
My Happy Face is 3-4-0 from seven career starts. Her other three losses came at the hands of top-flight horses like Kauai Katie, Dreaming of Julia and Teen Pauline.
Brown said she should handle the distance just fine, though she’s only run it once, a second to Kauai Katie in the Grade II Forward Gal in January.
“I’m confident she’ll be able to adapt back to going seven-eighths,” Brown said. “I’m not going to go as far as to say she’ll get the job done and win the race. Her last race was really her only two-turn race. She does well around one turn. She’s pretty adaptable to a pace, so I don’t think a cut back to seven-eighths is going to bother her.”
She will carry Joel Rosario for the third time. He took the mount when My Happy Face came to Brown’s barn from that of Rudy Rodriguez after the Forward Gal.
Weaver will give a leg up to Joe Rocco Jr. again, after he rode Lighthouse Bay to a win in the Prioress in his first start with her.
“We intend to use the same style,” Weaver said. “We want to stalk the pace and ask her when it’s time to run. But it being a seven-furlong race, it could be very different from the six-furlong race for everybody. We just have to let Joe Rocco sort it out after the break.
“I’ve always liked Joe. I’ve ridden him in the mid-Atlantic circuit, I’ve ridden him in Florida, he’s won some races at Gulfstream for me. I’m glad he’s been able to show people on the big circuit that he belongs here and he can ride with the best of them.”