Ima Happy Cat opened a long early lead and held off a wall of closers for a one-length victory Monday in the $50,000 Hastings Stakes for fillies and mares at Emerald Downs.
Scoring her second Emerald Downs’ stakes win, Ima Happy Cat ran six furlongs in 1:08.73 and paid $10.80, $5.40 and $4.60. Gary Wales rode the winner at 121 pounds for trainer Dan Markle and owners Sue and Tim Spooner of Olympia.
Breaking from the No. 8 post-position, Ima Happy Cat rocketed to a three-length lead, setting splits of :21.48 and :43.63, and was two lengths clear past mid-stretch. She tired slightly late, but held off Bella Mia, Dontkissntell and Paddy’s Secret to prevail.
The victory, worth $25,300, increased Ima Happy Cat’s career earnings to $168,696 including more than $100,000 in 2019. Her overall record is 5-4-1 in 14 starts, including a 3-2-0 in five starts this year.
Wales, who rode Ima Happy Cat in a race for the first time Sunday, said he was confident his filly would run well but surprised to be on the lead.
“She worked (five furlongs) in :58 under wraps the other day, and I liked our chances today,” said Wales, the meet’s leading rider with 18 wins. “She felt like a Cadillac on the backstretch. She’s a very nice horse.”
Already in 2019, Ima Happy Cat has two allowance wins on synthetic, a stakes victory on dirt, and a stakes placing on turf.
Bella Mia, ridden by Juan Gutierrez at 118 pounds, rallied from slightly off the pace to finish second, but was disqualified and placed fifth for interfering with Dontkissntell and Best of Me in the deep stretch.
Dontkissntell finished third, a head behind Bella Mia, but was promoted to second second place and paid $6.60 and $5.20. Ryan Barber rode Dontkissntell at 121 lbs.
Paddy’s Secret unleashed a late rail rally to finish fourth and was placed third via the DQ. Ridden by Javier Matias at 120 puonds, Paddy’s Secret paid $7.20.
Best of Me, the 9 to 5 favorite, finished fifth (placed fourth) and was followed in the official placings by Bella Mia, Always Enuff, No Talking Back, B C Z Middleton and Diamonds R.
Older fillies and mares reconvene for the $50,000 Washington State Legislators Stakes at 6½ furlongs on Sunday, June 23.
Dan Jukich, longtime voice of Hastings Racecourse, served as honorary steward for the Hastings Stakes. … Jukich also announced Monday’s fifth race, in which Alittlelesstalk ($5.80) scored a daylight victory vs. 3-year-old allowance fillies in 1:09.75 for six furlongs. A Demon Warlock filly trained by Roddina Barrett, Alittlelesstalk was coming off a runner-up finish to Mucho Amor in the $50,000 Seattle Stakes. … Smiling Tiger has sired two of the first three stakes winners this season: Baja Sur (Auburn Stakes) and Ima Happy Cat. … The Spooners are No. 2 all-time with 180 wins at Emerald Downs, including five stakes wins. … Dan Markle has nine career EmD stakes wins. … Gary Wales has two EmD stakes wins – the 2018 Gottstein Futurity aboard The Factor and Ima Happy Cat. … S Y Sky, the mare that defeated Ima Happy Cat in the Lost in the Fog Stakes on turf last month at Golden Gate, returned to win Sunday’s Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap at Santa Anita. …Dazzleation ($27) prevailed in the season’s first race for 2-year-olds, running 4½ furlongs in :53.27 under Alex Anaya for trainer Vince Gibson and owner Ashley Potts. The winner, a Kentucky-bred filly by Raison d’Etat-Girls’ Getaway, was the longest price in the six-horse field. … Trainer Pablo De Jesus notched his second straight two-win day Monday and moved into a third-place tie with Vince Gibson at seven wins apiece. … Lorenzo Lopez rode two winners Monday. … Live racing resumes Friday with first post 6:30 p.m.