Gutsy Happy Jack Aims for Preakness Stakes Title
Trainer Doug O’Neill has his sights set on the 147th Preakness Stakes with his talented colt, Happy Jack. O’Neill has solid reasons for his confidence in Happy Jack, and one of the most intriguing factors is the impressive lineage of this horse. Happy Jack’s sire, Oxbow, actually won the Preakness back in 2013. As O’Neill shared, “Oh, by the way, his sire, Oxbow, won this race and that is kind of a cool thing.” With Oxbow’s success in the Preakness, O’Neill believes Happy Jack has what it takes to follow in his father’s footsteps at Pimlico Race Course.
A Promising Prospect Despite Derby Finish
Happy Jack recently competed in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished 14th at odds of 23/1. However, the challenging dynamics of the Derby, with its crowded 20-horse field and need for front-end speed, didn’t play to Happy Jack’s strengths. Nevertheless, O’Neill saw enough potential in Happy Jack’s performance to justify a bid for the Preakness. This decision was made after careful consideration and consultation with Brad Kelley, the owner of Calumet Farm.
A Calculated Risk with Bold Rewards
Sometimes, taking calculated risks can lead to tremendous rewards in horse racing. Brad Kelley, known for his shrewd and adventurous approach as a horse owner, gave his stamp of approval for Happy Jack’s Preakness campaign. O’Neill expressed admiration for Kelley, stating, “He loves his horses and takes no shortcuts and surrounds them with the best people he can find. If a horse is doing well and showing they can get in and compete against the finest, he is game that way. I love it. No guts, no glory.”
Guts and Determination Set Happy Jack Apart
Happy Jack may not possess exceptional speed, as evident from his speed figures, but what he lacks in velocity, he compensates with his extraordinary guts and determination. This resilience has been evident throughout his racing career. Despite facing strong competition and suffering significant defeats, Happy Jack continues to display a fighting spirit.
After winning his maiden race by 1 Â¼ lengths, Happy Jack faced a tough challenge in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, where he finished far behind the winner, Messier, by 27 Â¼ lengths. Undeterred, O’Neill entered him in the Grade 2 San Felipe, where Happy Jack managed a commendable third-place finish, 10 Â½ lengths behind Forbidden Kingdom. The colt’s upward trajectory continued when he competed in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, securing a solid third-place finish, trailing Taiba and Messier by 12 Â¼ lengths.
Despite these defeats, O’Neill, with his keen eye for talent, recognizes the special qualities Happy Jack possesses. He recalls I’ll Have Another, a surprising colt who triumphed in the Preakness and the Derby against the odds, serving as a testament to the unpredictable nature of horse racing.
Revamping for Preakness Stakes
In preparation for the Preakness Stakes, O’Neill plans to make a few changes to optimize Happy Jack’s performance. The blinkers, which were removed for the Kentucky Derby, will be put back on to enhance his focus and concentration during the race. Additionally, jockey Tyler Gaffalione will take the reins, replacing Rafael Bejarano, who is not scheduled to ride on Preakness Day at Pimlico.
The Lone Californian in the Preakness
While Happy Jack may have seemingly slipped under the radar as the only Californian horse in the Preakness, O’Neill is optimistic about his chances for success. The horse will be shipped to Pimlico from Churchill Downs on Tuesday, ready to showcase his talent in this highly anticipated race.
As the Preakness approaches, Happy Jack aims to prove that he is more than just a footnote in the race. With his guts, connections, and the legacy of his sire, Oxbow, guiding him, this colt has the potential to surprise the racing world and leave a lasting mark on the Preakness Stakes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1: What is the significance of Oxbow winning the Preakness in 2013?
A1: Oxbow’s victory in the 2013 Preakness Stakes holds significance because he is the sire of Happy Jack, the horse aiming for success in this year’s Preakness. Oxbow’s triumph underscores the potential pedigree connection and adds excitement to Happy Jack’s campaign.
Q2: Why did Happy Jack’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, choose to enter him in the Preakness?
A2: Despite Happy Jack’s 14th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, Doug O’Neill saw promise in the horse’s performance and believed that the Preakness, with its shorter field and distance, would be a better fit for him. O’Neill’s assessment, combined with the owner’s willingness to take calculated risks, influenced the decision to enter the Preakness.
Q3: What sets Happy Jack apart from other horses, despite not having exceptional speed?
A3: Happy Jack’s exceptional guts and determination make him stand out from other horses. Despite facing difficult challenges and suffering defeats, his resilience and fighting spirit make him a compelling contender. It is these intangible qualities that give him a chance to shine in the Preakness.
Q4: Why are blinkers being put back on Happy Jack for the Preakness?
A4: Blinkers are being reintroduced to Happy Jack for the Preakness in order to enhance his focus and concentration during the race. The blinkers can help minimize distractions and keep the horse more engaged, which may lead to improved performance.
Q5: How does Happy Jack’s status as the only California horse in the Preakness impact his chances?
A5: While Happy Jack may be the lone representative from California in the Preakness, it does not diminish his prospects. In fact, it adds a unique element to his campaign, potentially fueling his determination to prove himself against horses from other regions. His status as the sole Californian may act as an additional motivation for success.
Happy Jack’s journey to the Preakness is filled with excitement, potential, and a touch of history. With the legacy of his sire, Oxbow, and the calculated risk-taking mentality of his owner, Happy Jack enters the Preakness with great promise. Despite not possessing exceptional speed, his guts and determination set him apart, making him an intriguing contender. With the guidance of trainer Doug O’Neill and the support of jockey Tyler Gaffalione, Happy Jack is ready to seize the moment and etch his name in Preakness Stakes history.