Michael Dubb’s My Happy Face is the 9-to-5 morning line choice and will face a full field of nine other three-year-old fillies in Saturday night’s $400,000 Charles Town Oaks at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. The 7-furlong Charles Town Oaks is the featured race on the track’s fifth annual Race for the Ribbon program and caps an all-stakes Pick Four that begins in Race 9.
My Happy Face, who is cross-entered in Saturday’s Cotillion (G1) at Parx, had a successful start to her career in a two-year-old campaign that saw her break her maiden by more than 20 lengths at Saratoga, come up just a head short of upsetting Dreaming of Julia in the Frizette (G1) and post the lone graded stakes win of her career in the Tempted (G3) at Aqueduct. Since then, the filly by Tiz Wonderful hasn’t ducked any of the division’s best in her sophomore season.
My Happy Face made her seasonal debut in January’s Forward Gal (G2) at Gulfstream where she finished second to Kauai Katie, then won the listed Lotka Stakes at Belmont Park before posting a runnerup effort behind divisional leader Princess of Sylmar in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1). Most recently, she endured a wide trip and came up a neck short as the 2.00-to-1 second choice in the Test (G1) at Saratoga.
A win on Saturday night would not only push her career earnings to nearly $700,000, but would also give her trainer a second consecutive victory in the Charles Town Oaks. Prior to being sent west to Bob Baffert, Gary and Mary West’s Book Review took down last year’s version of the race for her first career stakes tally and Brown’s first win at the West Virginia oval. It was a factor that Brown admits to considering when picking out this spot for My Happy Face.
“He we fared at the track definitely plays a role in coming back,” said Brown. “Book Review ran well last year and the people at Charles Town made it so easy on us to ship in and ship out that it makes it a lot easier to want to return with a horse like this.”
With a filly that has Grade 1 placings at both 7 furlongs and 1 1/8 miles, Brown thinks the nature of the Charles Town Oaks and track could play into My Happy Face’s hands.
“We think the 2-turn, 7 furlongs is something she should excel at. We’ll see how the field plays out, but that’s the hope.”
While My Happy Face looms as the likely favorite come Saturday night, she will still have to contend with the lone Grade 1 winner in the field, So Many Ways from the Tom Amoss barn. The 2012 Spinaway (G1) winner was most recently fourth in the Test, beaten just two lengths for the top spot.
Following an undefeated two-year-old campaign that was capped with a 2 ½ length victory in the Spinaway, the Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Sightseeing has one win from her six starts in her sophomore campaign, with the lone score coming in the Eight Belles (G3) on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Despite her win over the Churchill Downs strip, Amoss elected to scratch So Many Ways out of Saturday’s Dogwood in favor of the Charles Town Oaks.
“The money is part of it, but none of it would have come together if she didn’t show us that she could handle the tight turns,” Amoss says. “Just like we did last year with Sum of the Parts who won up at Charles Town, we took her over to Churchill’s sister track to train over. It’s a 6-furlong track and she went real good around the tighter turns there and it gave us enough confidence that she wouldn’t have any problems handling them.”
With the question about the tighter turns already answered, Amoss set out to handle another potential obstacle by shipping So Many Ways up to Charles Town on Monday, five days in advance of the race.
“We sent her up earlier than we normally would have. She hasn’t been the best horse in the paddock, so we sent her up to get settled and will start schooling her in the paddock on Wednesday night.”
Miguel Mena will ride So Many Ways in the Charles Town Oaks as she breaks from post 7 as the 9-to-2 co- second choice on the morning line.
The local contingent isn’t without a presence in the Charles Town Oaks, with their hopes spearheaded by Arlington-Washington Lassie (G3) winner Gold Edge. Owned by James F. Miller, Gold Edge burst on the scene as a two-year-old, winning the first three starts of her career, including her lone graded score at Arlington.
The Charles Town Oaks will mark the third different trainer Gold Edge has had in her 9 lifetime outings as she makes her first start for the Charles Town based Keturah Obed-Letts. Miller, who purchased Gold Edge at the 2012 Keeneland November sale for $220,000, has horses with both Obed-Letts and Wayne Catalano and transferred her from Catalano to the locally based connections after the filly’s fifth place finish in the Hatoof at Arlington. The Eddington filly made the first four starts of her career for trainer Lon Wiggins.
Following her race in the Hatoof, Gold Edge was shipped up to Charles Town well in advance of the race to Obed-Letts barn. Since her arrival, her new trainer has noticed a change in how she’s handled her surroundings.
“When she (Gold Edge) got here, she was really quiet and would just stand back in the corner of her stall,” says the locally based trainer who will also saddle Henny’s Princess for Miller in the Rachel’s Turn Stakes earlier on the card. “But now, she’s taken in the sites in her new environment, has gotten back to being a horse and is training much more aggressively. I hope she can run back to her last work because it was very good and she seemed to bounce out of it great too.”
Gold Edge has the services of jockey Alcibiades Cortez for the Charles Town Oaks.
The second horse with local connections – the West Virginia bred Jax and Jill – is currently the first horse on the also eligible list and would need a defection to compete in the Charles Town Oaks.
Despite holding three wins in four career starts over the Churchill Downs surface, including a victory in the 2012 Debutante (G3), Blueeyesintherein is another who elected to pass up the Dogwood in favor of the Charles Town Oaks.
Trained by Garry Simms, Blueeyesintherein rattled off three straight wins to start her career, including her lone graded win in the Debutante. Her first career defeat came at the hands of So Many Ways in the Eight Belles when she pressed the pace and held the lead in the stretch before giving way and finishing fifth, beaten 2 ¼ lengths.
Blueeyesintherein, purchased for the bargain basement price of $10,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September Sale, rebounded in her next start, with an easy win in an optional allowance at Churchill. Her trainer then sent her onto the Just Smashing Stakes at Monmouth Park where she was dealt her second defeat, once again finishing fifth. Leandro Goncalves, who won the 2012 Red Legend on Sum of the Parts, has the mount on Blueeyesintherein.
While not sporting the resume of some of her competitors, one of the fastest of the lot out of the gate is Averill Racing and Silver Oak Stable’s R Free Roll who will make her first start out of the state of Florida for trainer Ralph Ziadie. Earlier this year, R Free Roll finished second in the Primal Force Stakes at Gulfstream – a race where she was four lengths clear of third place finisher So Many Ways – before a convincing, 6 ¾ length front running score in the Unbridled Stakes at Calder. The Florida-bred R Free Roll will return to facing fillies after trying the boys in the Carry Back (G3) in July and fading to finish fifth as the odds on favorite.Kendrick Carmouche, who already has one win in the Charles Town Oaks aboard Derwin’s Star in 2010,will ride R Free Roll.
The body of the race is rounded out by Mr. Hall’s Opus for trainer Kelly Breen who comes in off a second place finish in the Monmouth Oaks (G3), Delaware Oaks (G2) runner-up Ile St. Molly, the multiple Grade 3 placed Fusaichiswonderful, Guadalupe High from the Ronny Werner barn and Awesome Mama who comes in off an allowance win at Charles Town in her last start.
In addition to Jax and Jill, Thetaloveandmine occupies a spot on the also eligible list at number 12 and would need two scratches to draw into the field.
The Charles Town Oaks is scheduled as Race 12 on Charles Town’s 13 race card that gets underway at 5pm, with the featured Oaks carrying a 10:30pm post time. The night of racing will be carried live by HRTV.