With no Fillies and Mares Open on the card, a $9,500 conditional event for distaffers served as the Friday feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The race had the look of an Open, though, as a few of its participants were dropping out of top-flight company. Happy Heart (Woodstock) was a nominee for Filly and Mare Claiming Pacer of the Year in 2017 as one of the stars of the Melissa Beckwith stable. While her ’18 campaign hasn’t quite matched last year’s, Happy Heart is enjoying another solid season and on Friday night driver Wally Hennessey sat behind her for the first time. Starting from post two, Happy Heart was aggressive in the early going and powered out to the lead in a sizzling 26.4 first quarter. After getting a breather in the second quarter, Happy Heart was met with the challenge of the race’s odds-on favorite who made her move first over though that rival never got close to the leader. Happy Heart seemed to be tiring a bit late in the mile as longshot Pull The Shade (Frank Coppola Jr) motored up the inside in the stretch to come after her. Happy Heart hung in there and recorded her fifth victory of the season, stopping the timer in 1:54.1 to spring the mild upset at odds of 6-1. Pull The Shade was the runner-up while one of the Open droppers Rock N Roll Rosie (Jimmy Devaux) came on for third. Happy Heart paid $14.20 to win and led an exacta and triple, with the favorite out of the number, that returned $121.50 and $530, respectively.
Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga with a first post time of 6:45pm.
Photo: Melissa Simser-Iovino