Even-money favorite Happy Soul made a winning comeback in Saturday’s $150,000 Dixie Belle S., revealing a new tactical dimension. The Wesley Ward filly had led early in all three starts as a juvenile, but proved that she could play the stalk-and-pounce game at Oaklawn Park.
Relaxed with blinkers off, Happy Soul was perched in third as Pretty Birdie reeled off an opening quarter in :21.37. The daughter of Runhappy skimmed the rail into second, just a half-length back, through the half in :44.81, and traveled well within herself cornering for home. Under no more than a hand ride from John Velazquez, Happy Soul skipped clear to a three-length decision in 1:10.44 for six furlongs.
Verylittlecents rallied from last for a fine second, 2 1/2 lengths to the good of Hypersport. Adirondack (G2) winner Wicked Halo, the 3.10-1 second choice in her return, was uncharacteristically at the back and kept on for fourth. Pretty Birdie faded to fifth, and pace-chasing Ding Ding tailed off in last. The field was reduced by the scratches of both Brad Cox entrants, Icy Stare Down and Com’ on Sweet Luv.
Gayla Rankin’s Happy Soul has won three straight since her second on debut to stablemate Nakatomi at Keeneland last April. She romped by more than 11 lengths apiece in her two starts at Belmont Park, a five-furlong maiden and the June 3 Astoria. Her resume now reads 4-3-1-0, $238,500.
Keeneland is next on the agenda for Happy Soul. Ward told Oaklawn publicity that the filly could try two turns in the Apr. 8 Ashland (G1) or take a more gradual step up in trip for the about seven-furlong Beaumont (G3). Both are scoring races on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, although the 1 1/16-mile Ashland is worth 10 times the points (100-40-20-10) as a more productive stepping stone than the Beaumont.
Happy Soul was bred by Harris Training Center in Kentucky and sold for $50,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The bay is out of the Stephen Got Even mare Cowgirl Lucky, who is also responsible for Canadian Grade 3 scorer Calgary Caper. This is the immediate family of multiple Grade/Group 3-winning sprinter Wildman Jack.