Michael Dubb's My Happy Face got the head-bobbing win on Sunday in Aqueduct's Grade 3, $142,500 Tempted over Cue the Moon. The Rudy Rodriguez-trained daughter of Tiz Wonderful just missed by a head in the Grade 1 Frizette last out, but would not be denied a second time, completing this one-mile, fast-track in 1:36 1/5.
"Our filly is very, very game, and we were very lucky," Rodriguez said. "Ramon (Dominguez) gave her a good ride. She didn't get a breather and the two horses stayed together. It was hard, but she ran very good. I thought it was going to be an easy race, but it came up tougher than we expected."
Jockey Ramon Dominguez sent the gray miss right to the front in the short four-filly field, but she found company in the form of Cue the Moon and Unabashed to her outside. The latter filly faded on the backstretch, but Cue the Moon kept pace throughout as My Happy Face posted splits of :22 2/5, :44 4/5 and 1:09 3/5.
The eventual winner and Cue the Moon were stride-for-stride rounding the turn, and neither would give an inch down the lane. In the end, My Happy Face just got her neck in front on a head-bob to earn her first stakes victory.
"She's very aggressive, very game, and she takes care of herself," Rodriguez added. "We're just going to enjoy this one, and hopefully she'll keep improving. We'll talk to Michael Dubb and see what he wants to do, but she's a game filly.
"We were thinking about going to California (for the Breeders' Cup), but I think we did the right thing by staying here, because they ran very, very big over there."
Sent off the 1-4 favorite, My Happy Face paid $2.60 and $2.10 after show wagering was canceled. It was another 6 1/4 lengths behind her and Cue the Moon to third-place runner Ruby Lips, while Unabashed trailed way back in last. Kimono and Emollient were both scratched.
"It was a pretty good battle turning for home. The other filly didn't give up and neither did mine," Dominguez noted.
My Happy Face finished second in her career debut at Saratoga, but romped by 21 1/4 lengths in her next try at the Spa. That encouraged the gray filly's connections to give her a shot in the Frizette, where she hounded heavily favored Dreaming of Julia, who was just third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, throughout before just missing a head on the wire.
Now owning a graded score of her own, My Happy Face improved her resume to read 4-2-2-0, $234,000.
Bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm and Shawhan Place, My Happy Face sold for $35,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She is out of the stakes-winning Siberian Summer mare Summer Star and her third dam is Forumstar, who produced Grade 2 heroine Starry Ice, multiple Grade 3-placed victor Champ's Star and listed vixen Distinguish Forum.
Starry Ice would go on in the breeding shed to foal Grade 1-winning sire Forest Danger, and this is the same female family as Grade 2-scoring multi-millionaire Say Florida Sandy and Grade 3 star Dancin Renee.