2022 Kentucky Derby Profile – Smile Happy


Arguably the most interesting Kentucky Derby prospect heading into 2022, Smile Happy closed as the Pool 1 individual betting favorite.  That was by virtue of a hearty wager courtesy of “Mattress Mack” who famously campaigned Smile Happy’s sire, Runhappy.  There is always a bit more support for the Kentucky Jockey Club winner each year, especially as the profile of the race has risen in recent years.  Smile Happy’s Kentucky Jockey Club win was strong, as he made a huge move on the far turn to take control and power clear.

All eyes were on Smile Happy in his seasonal debut, the Risen Star at Fair Grounds.  His effort was solid, if even somewhat unspectacular.  He made his usual late move and wound up checking in second behind runaway winner Epicenter, who had enjoyed an unencumbered trip on the front end.  In the Blue Grass, Smile Happy was considerably closer to the pace and that decision seemed inspired through an opening half-mile in a pedestrian :48 and 1/5.  While he got to the lead rather easily in midstretch, he ultimately proved no match for eventual winner Zandon, a rival whom this colt had beaten in the aforementioned Risen Star.



Smile Happy looks like a clear contender in this affair.  He has a versatile running style, can lay close to the pace if necessary, and should have no issue with the distance.  His damside pedigree is awfully non-descript, but training and running style can overcome such limitations.  The concern is that while many participants in this field have taken clear steps forward as 3YOs, this colt has not done so in quite the same manner.  He is better than he was as a juvenile, but not by a clear enough margin to be considered a major win candidate.


Given Corey Lanerie’s penchant for saving ground, don’t be surprised if you see Smile Happy on the inside and covered up going to the backstretch.  He is more of a late running type who’ll let the race develop in front of him as well.  If things heat up on the front end, it would help his chances, especially if he ends up out-sprinted in the opening half-mile.  You’ll get a square price at or around 15-1, especially on a horse that has been heavily backed in his first two outings of 2022.



There are more than enough reasons to use Smile Happy as an alternate in the multi-race plays.  He is likely a 2nd tier win candidate at best, but there are few members of this crop that have been as consistent and have improved as 3YOs.  That is enough to give him extra consideration.  A board hitting effort would hardly surprise.

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