Ima Happy Cat returns to Emerald Downs for Sunday’s running of the Hastings Stakes at six furlongs. COURTESY TRACK PHOTO

Ima Happy Cat returns to Emerald Downs for Sunday’s running of the Hastings Stakes at six furlongs. COURTESY TRACK PHOTO

Ima Happy Cat ready to roll in Hastings Stakes

  • Thursday, May 23, 2019 3:54pm
  • Sports

Older fillies and mares take their first crack at stakes action Monday with the $50,000 Hastings Stakes at six furlongs. The Memorial Day stakes is the first of four open stakes for older fillies and mares, and is shaping up as a beauty.

Blaine Wright, as usual, holds a strong hand, with Always Enuff, Bella Mia and Best of Me all nominated to the Hastings. And Tom Wenzel also has a solid pair with Emerald Downs’ stakes winners Diamonds R and Dontkissntell expected to run.

In fact, Best of Me, Bella Mia and Dontkissntell are all coming off very sharp preps at Emerald Downs, and each will have their share of backers Monday.

But don’t overlook Ima Happy Cat, who arrives in town after an excellent spring in California. A 4-year-old by Smiling Tiger-Infernal McGoon, Ima Happy Cat was 2-2-0 in four starts the last two months at Golden Gate, scoring a pair of allowance victories and earning over $75,000 for owners Sue and Tim Spooner.

Most recently, Ima Happy Cat finished second to S Y Sky in the $75,000 Camilla Urso Stakes at five furlongs on turf.

“Ima Happy Cat’s a hard-hitting filly and a lot of fun to lead over for a race,” trainer Dan Markle said. “It’s a good group of fillies we’re facing Monday, but (Ima Happy Cat) is doing as good as she can be doing. It’s going to be a dynamite race.”

Although three of her four career victories are on the synthetic Tapeta surface, Ima Happy Cat captured the 2018 Seattle Stakes at Emerald Downs, and she seemed to handle the dirt fine while breezing five furlongs in a bullet :58 last Sunday under Gary Wales, who takes over the mount Monday. Moreover, Ima Happy Cat can adapt to virtually any pace scenario, twice winning gate to wire and twice from slightly off the pace.

• Entries for the Hastings Stakes will be drawn Friday. Complete list of nominees: Always Enuff, B C Z Middleton, Bella Mia, Best of Me, Diamonds R, Dontkissntell, Fly Far Away, Ima Happy Cat, Jerre to Carrie, No Talking Back, Paddy’s Secret.

• Smiling Tiger also sired Baja Sur, winner of last Sunday’s $50,000 Auburn Stakes for 3-year-olds in a stakes record 1:07.98.

Longacres Mile winner Barkley sidelined

Defending Longacres Mile champion Barkley will miss the remainder of the 2019 season due to a tendon ailment, trainer Howard Belvoir said.

The 6-year-old full horse by Munnings will remain at the track, and Belvoir said there are no plans on retiring the charismatic chestnut. But with the $50,000 Governor’s Stakes kicking off the road to the Longacres Mile next week, the timing couldn’t be worse.

“I feel bad for Barkley, I feel bad for Rising Star Stable (III), and I feel terrible for the industry,” Belvoir said. “It’s a real blow.”

Barkley will miss 90 days of training, at which point Belvoir and Rising Star will reevaluate their options.

Barkley ran brilliantly in his May 12 season debut, rallying from last to win a $21,500 allowance by 2 ¼ lengths in 1:02.98 for 5½ furlongs. His career record is 10-4-1 in 18 starts with six stakes wins and $363,625 in earnings, the latter good for No. 5 on the track’s all-time list.

Racing this week

Friday, May 24

6:30 p.m. (7 races)

Fab Friday

Saturday, May 25

2 p.m. (8 races)

Family Fun Weekend

Sunday, May 26

2 p.m. (8 Races)

Armed Forces Day

Outdoors Giveaway

Monday, May 27

2 p.m.

$50,000 Hastings Stakes (3&UP F&M/6F)

Diaper Derby


Saturday’s firth race is the Dave Heerensperger Memorial Race in honor of the longtime Seattle business icon and Thoroughbred racehorse and Unlimited Hydroplane owner who passed away at age 82 last December. Majestic Eagle, racing for the estate of Heerensperger, runs in Saturday’s $200,000 Triple Bend Stakes (Grade 2) at Santa Anita. … Javier Matias needs two wins to become the ninth rider to win 500 races at Emerald Downs. Matias, 47, has two mounts Friday: Blazin B B (7/2) in race two and Bear Minimun (3/1) in race four. … Das Bear bids to become the first triple winner of the meet in Saturday’s feature race for $15,000 claimers 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs. The field from the rail out: Das Bear, Seattle Smoke, Double A. Prospect, He’s Not Grey, Don’tbeshywillie, Ivy Mike. … In addition to the $50,000 Hastings Stakes for fillies and mares, Monday’s program includes the first annual Diaper Derby a.k.a. “The slowest two minutes in sports.” The top two finishers in the two elimination heats will advance to the final crawl-off. … Nominations close Saturday for the $50,000 Governor’s Stakes on Sunday, June 2. At six furlongs, the Governor’s is first stop for older horses on the road to the $200,000 Longacres Mile (Grade 3) on Sunday, Aug. 11. … Three-time Emerald Downs’ riding champion Rocco Bowen celebrates his 30th birthday Thursday… Sunday’s eight-race card begins with a 350-yard allowance for Quarter Horses at 350 yards. … Arizona Downs in Prescott Valley, Ariz., opens a 35-day meeting Friday with an eight-race card at 1 p.m. Four-time Emerald Downs’ training champion Jeff Metz has six horses entered over the first three days at Arizona Downs, while Gary Baze will be in the stewards’ booth. … Peter Redekop’s Awhitesportscoat is the 3-to-1 morning line favorite in the $50,000 George Royal Stakes for 3-year-olds and up Sunday at Hastings Racecourse. A 5-year-old Hansen gelding, Awhitesportscoat edged Cody’s Choice in an $18,500 optional claimer April 28 at Emerald Downs.

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