Kentucky Derby Spotlight: Happy Jack
Calumet Farm has bred more Kentucky Derby winners than anyone else. This iconic farm produced 9 horses that went on to wear a blanket of roses, including Triple Crown winners Whirlaway and Citation. Despite this, they haven't won a Kentucky Derby since 1991. This year, Calumet brings Happy Jack to Churchill Downs with hopes of him becoming their 10th winner of the prestigious race.
Happy Jack was bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm. He is by Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow, who at stud has produced the likes of Hot Rod Charlie, who has earned $5.1 million so far. Happy Jack is out of the Tapit mare Tapitsry.
Calumet kept their well-bred colt to race him in their black and gold silks (Calumet’s silks were historically devil’s red and blue). Happy Jack did not race as a two-year-old, instead making his racing debut in January of 2022 for trainer Doug O’Neil. He broke his maiden in his first asking as one of the longest shots on the board.
Happy Jack followed up this maiden-breaking performance with a 5th (and last) place finish in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) behind Messier. He put in a better performance when 3rd in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) in March and was 3rd behind Taiba and Messier in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
[Video: Watch Happy Jack break his maiden on debut]
There have only been two horses to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old: Apollo (1882) and Justify (2018). Happy Jack won’t be the only horse looking to break “Apollo’s Curse” this year; Taiba, who defeated Happy Jack in the Santa Anita Derby, did not race at two either.
Happy Jack’s connections have quite a bit of Derby experience. Doug O’Neill trained I’ll Have Another (2012) and Nyquist (2016) to Kentucky Derby glory and also took another son of Oxbow, Hot Rod Charlie, to the Kentucky Derby for a 3rd place finish last year.
"He has a little bit of Hot Rod Charlie in him just in that he's a stayer," O'Neill said in an interview with BloodHorse, comparing Hot Rod Charlie and Happy Jack. "I don't know that Jack has that huge turn of foot; he's more like riding a bike. You get position with him and keep pedaling and he'll keep going. That's how Charlie is."
Happy Jack drew post #2 and has morning line odds of 30-1. He will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano.
“We're going to be an outsider, but I think the horse has the stamina and ability to step up and shock the world,” Doug O’Neill said of Happy Jack’s chances in an interview with Paulick Report.
Will you be rooting for this longshot in the Kentucky Derby?
[Video: Watch Happy Jack work at Keeneland for the Kentucky Derby]
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