Outclassed and an unknown treading on turf, Get Happy Mister figured to be outrun in the $100,000 San Simeon Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) April 19 at Santa Anita Park.
But the Arapahoe Park star, who has dominated his races at the Colorado track, liked the Southern California grass just fine Sunday, rallying from fourth at the top of the stretch with jockey Tyler Baze to win the 6 1/2-furlong downhill test by a length over 5-2 second choice Holy Lute.
Off at 12-1 odds, the victory gave the 5-year-old gelding by First Samurai his sixth straight win (the first five coming at Arapahoe), his first graded stakes in his first try, and made him the highest-earning Colorado-bred, with lifetime winnings of $384,928—all in his turf debut. He passed Cut of Music, who had $342,783 in earnings, with the $60,000 winner's share.
It was also a special moment for trainer Mark Tsagalakis and owner Annette Bishop. Tsagalakis, who has been training since 1993, is Bishop's son-in-law and won his first stakes at any level with the San Simeon score. It was also Bishop's first graded stakes victory as an owner.
"I have a very good trainer," Bishop said after the race, holding back tears.
Tsagalakis only takes over care of Get Happy Mister when he makes trips to California, like he did in 2014, when he finished fourth in the Santana Mile Stakes.
"The race came up, he was ready to go, and he was eligible for it—let's give it a try," said the trainer, who is 2-for-2 in starts this year. Oliver's Tale, who won an allowance/optional claiming event March 20 at Santa Anita is one of three horses in the conditioner's barn. "We had him out on the turf the other day (to work out) and he seemed to like it, and he did."
Home Run Kitten, favored at 2-1, closed from last in the seven-horse field to finish third, a length behind Holy Lute.
Sweet Swap and Pure Tactics dueled for the lead down the hill, setting early fractions of :22.16 and :43.84 through a half-mile, while Get Happy Mister sat five lengths back in third. The gelding dropped to fourth at the top of the stretch before surging to victory on the rail, running the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.11 over a turf course rated firm.
"He's a really classy horse. I had never been on him, but I watched all his replays and kinda rode him accordingly," Baze said. "It looked like he could really do anything. He just loves to run."
The winner paid $27.20, $10, and $4.60 across the board. Holy Lute delivered $4 and $3.20, and Home Run Kitten returned $2.60 to show.
Tsagalakis said Get Happy Mister will return to Colorado to race at Arapahoe this summer, then will return to Santa Anita in the fall. Bishop shot down any suggestion the gelding would stay in Southern California to continue racing at Santa Anita.
"I don't know his limits and (after) today, I have no idea," Bishop said. "I'm just amazed he did as well as he did today, because he's been training out of his skin."
Get Happy Mister was a $46,000 purchase by Bishop at the Colorado Thoroughbred Breeders Association's Silver Cup yearling sale in 2011. He was bred by Willard Burbach from the Elusive Quality mare Sara Margaret. The gelding's record sits at 11-0-0 from 14 career starts.
Outside Nashville closed mildly to finish fourth, followed by Sweet Swap, Pure Tactings, and U S Citizen. Joes Blazing Aaron was scratched.