Returning to the United States and to dirt did the trick for the Wesley Ward-trained Happy Like a Fool, as she pulled away from her rivals in the Belmont Park stretch to win the $150,000 Matron Stakes (G3) Oct. 15.
Sunday's six-furlong race for juvenile fillies was the first try in back in the U.S. for the Distorted Humor filly, whose last two starts were in England, including a runner-up finish in the Queen Mary Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot. She won her debut on dirt at Keeneland in April.
"I had her in Florida before any of her starts. She showed an affinity for the turf, so that's why she ran in England (on turf), but I do think she's better on the dirt," Ward said. "She ran on the grass because she's a good filly. She has the physique of a sprinter and the mother was a sprinter, so we'll see what happens as we look further from this.
"She's got a very nice mind. We were looking for her to settle early on, and so we took the blinkers off and she did that. ... We'll sit down and talk to the owners from here. ... Next year's going to be a very big year for her."
In the Matron, Take Charge Paula broke sharp and took the lead but was soon passed by Valuable Package, who sped to the front of the five-filly field after she lost her footing and bumped Happy Like a Fool at the start. Happy Like a Fool, with Tyler Gaffalione up, raced off the pace on the outside, as Valuable Package set fractions of :22.87 and :46.21 through a half-mile.
Gaffalione moved Happy Like a Fool three wide around the turn, the filly took the lead in the stretch, and shifted in toward the rail. With Happy Like a Fool opening up a four-length lead in the stretch, Paco Lopez moved Take Charge Paula out and chased the leader home but finished 2 1/4 lengths short in second. Valuable Package was eight lengths back in third. The final time was 1:10.98. Tarawa and Honey Graeme completed the order of finish.
"Wesley said just place her wherever she wants to be," Gafflione said. "He said he'd been working her behind horses, so it shouldn't be any problem, wherever she's comfortable. And he said she's been working like a monster, and she came out here and ran like a monster today."
The odds-on favorite returned $3.20, $2.80, and $2.10 across the board.
Bred by her trainer in Kentucky, Happy Like a Fool is out of the Sky Mesa mare Lastofthsummerwine and is a half sister to grade 2 winner Conquest Panthera. She is owned by Merriebelle Stable, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith. She has two wins and earnings of $160,197.