LOUISVILLE, KY (Friday, May 5, 2023) – Lucky Seven Stable’s Smile Happy put away favored West Will Power at the top of the stretch and then turned back a bid from Art Collector by 2 lengths to win the 20th running of the $600,000 Alysheba presented by Sentient Jet (GII) for 4-year-olds and up, the first of seven stakes Friday on the Kentucky Oaks (GI) program at Churchill Downs.

Trained by Kenny McPeek and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., Smile Happy covered the mile and a sixteenth over a fast main track in 1:41.29.
West Will Power set the pace in the field of six with fractions of :24.30, :47.80 and 1:11.50 with Smile Happy tracking just to his outside. On the far turn, Smile Happy drew alongside West Will Power and hit the front at the top of the stretch as Art Collector launched a three-wide bid.
Smile Happy maintained a narrow margin on Art Collector through the stretch run before pulling clear in the final yards.
Winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) here as a 2-year-old, Smile Happy became a millionaire with the Alysheba victory that was worth $368,280. Now 8-4-2-1 for his career, Smile Happy has earned $1,019,890.
Smile Happy is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Runhappy out of the Pleasant Tap mare Pleasant Smile.
Smile Happy returned $17.48, $6.74 and $3.18. Art Collector, ridden by Junior Alvarado, returned $4.88 and $2.66 and finished three-quarters of a length in front of West Will Power, who paid $2.22 to show under Flavien Prat.
It was another 8 ¼ lengths back to Last Samurai, who was followed in order by 2022 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike and Milliken.
Brian Hernandez Jr., jockey, Smile Happy, winner: “(Smile Happy) got to his position so easy around the first turn. I expected to be three or four lengths back but he put himself in such a good spot. He had his ears flipping back and forth and I knew he was comfortable. Art Collector ran at him pretty hard at the 1/8th pole but he put him away.”
Kenny McPeek, trainer, Smile Happy, winner: “I’m really not surprised. He’s tricky to deal with sometimes and the last couple of races, we’ve finally figured his number. We ran him back quickly at Oaklawn because he was difficult to train at Oaklawn. He got him back here and he’s done everything right. But, we learned a value lesson in his last race at Oaklawn. He’s a true alpha. He wants everything his own way. But, he can run like the wind. I’m really proud of him.”
Junior Alvarado, jockey, Art Collector, runner-up: “He hasn’t been able to break good enough out of there and I’ve been stuck in the one hole so by the time we get ready to do the running I already have horses in front of me. That’s the only concern I still have is that he hasn’t been breaking too good for me to engage and get closer to the lead. Today I thought I had a great trip, similar to the Pegasus. I think today was our best shot, turning for home he was running so hard but that horse never came back to me.”
Flavien Prat, jockey, West Will Power, third: “The winner was just going better than me all the way around. I was pleased with my trip but he was on top of me the whole race. (Smile Happy) was moving better than me. I think (West Will Power) needs more ground.”
Eric Reed, trainer, Rich Strike, fifth: “I’m unusually disappointed in the effort. I’m not sure what’s going on. I expected him to finish better. He was where he was supposed to be but he didn’t fire at all.”
Smile Happy in the Alysheba (Bee Buck Photography)
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