As Ellis Park Holds Its First G1 $1,000,000 Stakes in a Century, 3–1 Crowd Favorite Smile Happy Exhibits a Disappointing Performance

Published 07/05/2023, 6:42 PM EDT

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The first horserace in 101 years was recently held on an exquisite estate constructed in 1922. This is a remarkable moment for the landowners who have been pushing the equestrian mission. Churchill Downs delayed hosting spring and summer races until it complied with safety standards. Located between the borders of Indiana and Kentucky, north of the Ohio River, Ellis Park serves as the racing location throughout the summer.

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Ellis Park, popularly referred to as “the Pea Patch,” hosted the Stephen Foster Stakes over the last weekend. The presence of some incredible horse-rider duos complimented the special day, though the hype was short-lived. What went wrong in the most awaited million-dollar race in Kentucky?

Equestrian community upset over Kentucky Horses’ Performance

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A $1 million Grade I horse race, took place on June 30, 2023, in Henderson, Kentucky. The 3-1 fan favorite Smile Happy, a multiple graded stakes winner, won the competition. However, the horse’s performance was subpar, and it did not finish in the top three. According to the Horse Racing Nation, Smile Happy, led by Corey Lanerie tried to get to the finish line by approaching and tipping outside of West Will Power.

What makes the G1 race special is the age-bound set of three and older American Thoroughbreds being allowed to participate in the 1+1⁄8 miles of dirt run. At the Pea Patch, a 4-year-old member of Smile Happy’s stable Rattle N Roll took over the challenge to go 1-1 against West Will Power in the end. However, despite his best efforts by a half-length to win, West Will Power beat Rattle N Roll winning his first Grade 1 victory as a 6-year-old horse.

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In the fiercely competitive race for first place, some of the best horses in the country participated. West Will Power, who earned a spot in the Classic, solidified his status as one of the top horses in the country. As for the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) winner, Smile Happy, he served as a reminder that anything can happen in horse racing. With eight of North America’s most popular horses, the efforts put into the race were immense, and the trainers shared their thoughts on the results.

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Equestrian reacts to the G1 race results

After the race, many critical statements were shared by the trainers and equestrians. Defending his four-year-old, Smile Happy his trainer Kenny McPeek said, “He’s a fantastic horse,” on his fifth position in Grade 1. Another trainer joined in to advocate for his horse on a sweltering 88-degree day. In defiance of the speed bias, Rattle N Roll’s trainer asserted, “He ran well. He ran super. He continues to impress, and he raised himself to another level. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get there, but he ran great.”

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For either horse starting off its race journey, Saturday’s race at Ellis Park was a tough one that only prepared the horses for their next milestone. While many fans believe it was just not Smile Happy’s best of days on the race track, his previous performances balance his tally off. After all, the 4-year-old colt is continuously improving, and the potential is still considerable.

Watch this story Heartbroken After 4-Year-Old’s Fatal Horse Accident, Equestrian Community Lends Helping Hand

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Written by:

Divya Purohit

710Articles

One take at a time

Divya Purohit is a sports writer at EssentiallySports specializing her coverage in American sporting events. She recently found US Sports writing to be a niche that she enjoys and began following sports. Divya enjoys researching and creating various pieces of articles.
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Edited by:

Anupama Ghosh

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