The connections of Acting Happy have a saying – if a horse
wins, and you didn’t bet it, you’re just “acting happy.”
“Marty McGee, who works for the Daily Racing Form,
it’s something his father Jimmy used to say,” said Samantha Siegel, who, with
father Mace, campaigns Acting Happy under the banner of Jay Em Ess Stable.
“It’s become kind of an expression in our group and I wanted to name a horse
that, and have it be a good horse.”
It seems that Siegel chose wisely when naming Acting Happy,
a homebred daughter of Empire Maker out of the multiple Grade 1 winner I Ain’t
Bluffing, whom the Siegels also owned and raced.
So far, Acting Happy has compiled a record of 2-2-1 from
five starts, including a breakout win in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan, her
first start in graded stakes company. She was most recently third behind Devil
May Care after a troubled trip in the Grade 1 Betfair TVG Coaching Club
American Oaks. She will face that rival again, along with Blind Luck and three
others, in Saturday’s Grade 1 Betfair TVG Alabama at Saratoga Race Course.
The filly’s road to the races has not been without bumps,
but her impressive ascent from maiden winner to Grade 1 contender over the last
seven months was just what her connections were hoping for.
“She was a big, strong foal,” Siegel said. “Always nice and
good-looking. As a 2-year-old, she had a couple of little problems, but she got
through that and got back to training. I called Rick [Dutrow, Jr.] one day and
said ‘I’m sending you a surprise.’ When she got there, he said ‘wow.’”
Dutrow was immediately impressed with the big bay filly, who
broke her maiden upon debut at Gulfstream
Park in a 1 1/8th-mile
“She’s a big, tall, long-striding filly,” Siegel said. “I
like the fact that he started her at 1 1/8th miles the first time
out. I think a one-turn mile is really more of a sprinter’s race, and this
filly likes two turns.”
In the Betfair TVG Alabama, Acting Happy will get two turns,
trying 1 ¼ miles for the first time, as are most of her rivals. Devil May Care,
winner of the Grade 1 Mother Goose en route to the Betfair TVG Coaching Club,
finished 10th in the 1 ¼ -mile Kentucky Derby against colts on May
1. Along with the West Coast-based Blind Luck, she figures to be a tough foe on
“It’s a Grade 1, it’s not supposed to be easy, but we think
she’ll like 1 ¼ miles and maybe that will help even things out,” Siegel said.
“Those two are very nice fillies, the top of the division on dirt, but
it’s the distance makes us really want to try this.”
To date, Siegel has been most impressed by Acting Happy’s
effort in the Black-Eyed Susan, in which her owner felt she showed a new
“It was her first time in a graded stakes, and when those
horses came to her, she just kept running,” Siegel said. “She’s still a work in
progress, but that race showed how much potential she has.”
And how did her owner feel
after the Black-Eyed Susan?
“I wasn’t acting when she won – I was happy.”