Ima Happy Cat collared the leaders into the stretch and drew clear for a 2½-length triumph over Bella Mia in the $50,000 Seattle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Sunday at Emerald Downs.
With Rocco Bowen riding at 118 pounds, Ima Happy Cat ran six furlongs in 1:09.68 and paid $6.40, $3.20 and $2.60. Dan Markle is the trainer for owners Tim and Sue Spooner of Olympia.
With the victory, Ima Happy Cat made a successful leap from maiden special weight winner to stakes winner, a notoriously difficult feat in Thoroughbred racing.
“She’s just a real quality filly,” Markle said.
Markle said Ima Happy Cat lost a shoe on the walk over before the race, but stood still like a pro while being re-shod in the paddock.
Ima Happy Cat was all business in the race too, stalking Bella Mia and Brilliant Bird through fractions of :21.76 and :44.37, launching a three wide bid around the turn, overtaking the leaders into the lane and drawing clear for the victory.
“When I straightened her up in the stretch, I was loaded with horse today,” Bowen said. “She got a monster figure in her (maiden) win at Golden Gate, she’s a great horse.”
A California-bred by Smiling Tiger-Infernal McGoon, Ima Happy Cat is 2-1-1 in four starts with earnings of $53,705. She earned $26,950 for winning the Seattle.
Bella Mia, a slight choice over Ima Happy Cat in the wagering, gamely held second and paid $3.20 and $2.60. Winner of three stakes last year, Bella Mia earned $9,800 to push her earnings over the $100,000 mark for owners John and Janene Maryanski of Auburn. Emerald Downs and Washington champion as a 2-year-old, Bella Mia is 4-1-0 in six starts with earnings of $101,323,
Brilliant Bird also held on well in the stretch, finishing third, and paid $3.40 to show. Her career mark is 1-1-1 in three starts with earnings of $21,225.
Diamonds R, Spot On, Stay in Grace and Gold Supply completed the order of finish.
Sophomore fillies reconvene June 10 for the $50,000 Kent Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs.
Rocco Bowen has 26 stakes wins at Emerald Downs, tied with Gary Baze for No. 6 all-time. … Bowen, Eswan Flores and Julien Couton rode two winners each Sunday. … Jeff Metz was the only trainer with two wins. … 4-year-old filly No Talking Back ($10) made it two straight with a victory over stable mate Racy Rascal in the Sunday opener, an $18,500 optional claimer for older fillies and mares. Anne Sangunietti was aboard for trainer Chris Stenslie and owners Jody Peetz and Steve Shimizu. Incidentally, Infernal McGoon, dam of Seattle Stakes winner Ima Happy Cat, is also the grandmother of No Talking Back. … Exotic Animal races were held after Races 4, 5 and 6: Jorge Rosales rode West Seattle Hump to victory in the camel race, although the highlight was ”Meatball Paul” Johnson lugging out while finishing second aboard Donald Hump; Luis Gonzalez guided Screetch to victory in the ostrich race; and Tena Birdwell rode Noosa Zebra to a triumph in the first-ever zebra-race at Emerald Downs. … Owner Mike (Muddy) Waters rode in the ostrich race and also collected a Thoroughbred victory as Dreamrider ($8.20) drew off for an easy victory in race eight. … Live racing resumes Friday at 6:30 p.m., and includes a $5,535 carryover in the $0.20 Jackpot Pick 7.