(Runhappy sticker at the Horse Sales / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
From the Ellis Park Media Team:
Ellis Park’s 98th season has a new title sponsor, and it’s one of the best and fastest horses ever to race at Kentucky’s second-oldest thoroughbred track. The 2020 RUNHAPPY Summer Meet at Ellis Park runs July 2 through Aug. 30.
Back in 2015, James McIngvale’s 3-year-old colt Runhappy won a second-level allowance race at Ellis Park, using that sizzling performance as a springboard to stardom. He captured Saratoga’s Grade 1 King’s Bishop in his next start and went on to win the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Eclipse Award as North America’s champion sprinter. Runhappy joined the famed stallion roster at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., upon his retirement from racing.
(Runhappy won a second-level allowance race at Ellis Park in 2015 before going on to be champion sprinter. Coady Photography)
The 2020 RUNHAPPY Summer Meet at Ellis Park includes the $200,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Derby, $100,000 RUNHAPPY Audubon Oaks, $100,000 RUNHAPPY Juvenile and $100,000 RUNHAPPY Debutante on Aug. 9. The winner of the $100,000 RUNHAPPY Preview Turf Sprint — one of five Kentucky Downs Preview Day stakes races on Aug. 2 — receives a fees-paid spot in Kentucky Downs’ $700,000, Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint a month later.
The 1 1/8-mile RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Derby is an official Kentucky Derby prep race, with its winner earning 50 points toward qualifying for the 20-horse field on Sept. 5. The RUNHAPPY Audubon Oaks is part of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, offering 10 qualifying points to the winner.
In addition, the meet’s 2-year-old open maiden races are being sponsored by RUNHAPPY, whose name appears in all capital letters when used in sponsorships.
Runhappy’s first foals are 2-year-olds just starting to reach the races, and McIngvale hopes to run “four or five” at Ellis Park. The first will be Runability, who is in the fourth race on Ellis Park’s opening card Thursday. McIngvale’s horses are trained by his sister in law, Laura Wohlers, who is based at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, Ky.
“We’re very excited about the partnership with Ellis Park as they continue to promote and expand thoroughbred horse racing in the great Commonwealth of Kentucky,” McIngvale said. “It’s a great fit. My sister in law and her husband, Kelly, they love racing at Ellis Park. When the sponsorship opportunity came up, I was thrilled to promote Runhappy in his home state of Kentucky with the great horsemen and horsewomen who bring their thoroughbreds to Ellis Park. It’s a great opportunity to promote Runhappy’s young stallion career all through the Ellis Park meet as it goes right up to the Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland yearling sales. The timing is very good.”
McIngvale, known as Mattress Mack, operates the Gallery Furniture retail chain in Houston. He is famous for his Texas-sized promotions — “I wake up every day with a new marketing idea,” he says — and expansive philanthropy. McIngvale received world-wide publicity with his “Win It All” promotion where customers who had purchased mattresses or bases totaling at least $3,000 would get their money back if the Houston Astros won baseball’s World Series. Those Gallery Furniture consumers cashed in on the Astros’ 2017 championship and lost in seven games last year.
McIngvale is just as enthusiastic in promoting Runhappy by sponsoring stakes and race meets around the country. The RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Derby joins such prestigious races as Saratoga’s RUNHAPPY Travers, Belmont’s RUNHAPPY Metropolitan Handicap and Del Mar’s RUNHAPPY Del Mar Futurity. The horse also is the title sponsor of the RUNHAPPY Eclipse Awards and the presenting sponsor of Gulfstream Park’s Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series, along with the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs.
“Runhappy’s race at Ellis Park really brought his brilliance into the spotlight, with his sheer speed running the field off their feet,” said Jeff Hall, Ellis Park’s director of racing operations. “He was an amazing racehorse who never raced on medication, and as one of our most illustrious ‘graduates,’ we’re thrilled to put on the RUNHAPPY Summer Meet at Ellis Park. We look forward to seeing his offspring race with us. This has been a difficult year for everyone in horse racing, and having Mattress Mack in our corner certainly makes us sleep better.”