Happy Farm, a 10-year-old Florida-bred graded stakes winner with $870,338 earned during a 52-race career, has been retired from racing. More importantly, he has reunited with his biggest admirer.

Jocelyn Brooks, currently the director of bloodstock at Boardshorts Racing, first encountered Happy Farm as a yearling while employed at Sagamore Farm in Maryland. After following Happy Farm throughout his long career at the track, she has acquired the diminutive gelding and has him turned out and living a comfortable life at a private farm near her home in Lexington.

Happy Farm is a son of Ghostzapper out of the Florida-bred mare Gospel Girl, by the Horse of the Year Holy Bull, bred by George and Karen Russell’s Rustlewood Farm Inc., located in Reddick, Fla. Gospel Girl also produced stakes-placed females Good Fight, with Afleet Alex; Corey with First Samurai; and Top Blue with Ghostzapper.

Sagamore Farm purchased Happy Farm for $45,000 out of the Summerfield consignment at the 2015 Ocala Breeders’ Sales August Yearling Sale through bloodstock agent Stan Hough.

“Stan Hough called Hunter Rankin [then Sagamore Farm president] and said there was a little Ghostzapper colt that he really liked at the OBS Yearling Sale,” Brooks said. “When he arrived at Sagamore everybody just loved him.”

“He was not the biggest horse. Very typical of a Ghostzapper—kind of short and stout. In the mornings, he just kind of cantered around there. Really didn’t show anything too exciting.”

“The first time we ran him, he ran third at Laurel and we were all like ‘whoa!’ because Happy had never really showed much in the morning. Everybody liked him. But he never acted like he was too interested, and he ran better than anybody expected.”

Happy Farm continued to surprise his connections at Sagamore, winning his next three starts at Pimlico, Belmont Park and Saratoga. 

“We then ran him back at Pimlico and he won. Everybody said ‘well, that was cool. Who knew Happy Farm could do that?’”, Brooks said. “Everybody just adored him because he was so snuggly and sweet, cool personality and easy to ride. Everybody at the barn was so excited.

“Then we sent him up to New York and thought we were putting him in a really tough spot and he won in New York. And we all said ‘no way. Happy Farm won at Belmont. This is amazing.”

“Then we bring him up to Saratoga and we had the whole crew at Saratoga. Who knew he could win at Saratoga, but he did. It was so fun.”

Two starts later Sagamore lost Happy Farm when he was claimed for $32,000 at Saratoga.

“Hunter said, ‘don’t worry, nobody is going to [claim] him.’ But of course, someone took him, and I cried,” Brooks said. “I’ve been in the business enough years that I have lost plenty of horses to claims and sold a lot of horses. That is the only horse I’ve ever cried over [when lost in a claiming race.]”

Happy Farm would be claimed again two starts later but Brooks continued to follow his career, hoping to one day reunite. 

“Every time he got claimed, I would contact someone I knew,” Brooks said. “Whether it was the trainer, owner, the jockey—I just wanted them to know that if Happy ever needed a home or if anything ever happened… let us know. Because everybody at the farm, myself, the riders, everybody loved Happy.

“And then he would get claimed again, and I’d have to find a new connection and bother them.”

Throughout his eight-year career on track, Happy Farm would be claimed a total of 12 times and change barns 16 times.

In 2019, Happy Farm won the Grade 3 Fall High Weight and was second in both the Gravesend and Grade 3 Top Fool while trained by Jason Servis.

After an 11-month layoff, Happy Farm emerged from the Servis barn in January of 2021 with a fifth-place finish in the $97,000 Gravesend when trained by Linda Rice. A month later, Happy Farm won a $50,000 claiming race for Rice before being transferred to trainer Rob Atras two races later. Atras had Happy Farm for one race, winning a $50,000 claiming in May of 2021, before Rice claimed him back for $50,000. He would be claimed out of his next three starts, the last by trainer Antonio Arriaga for Steve Schauer’s The Players Group in February of 2022.

Happy Farm would be claimed three more times throughout the next 11 races in 11 months. Eventually he was claimed again by Arriaga and The Players Group for $40,000 in June of 2023. 

The Players Group would run Happy Farm nine more times, eventually deciding to retire him after he finished fourth at Monmouth Park on June 2.

Just as Brooks had done with all of his previous owners, she had contacted Steve Schauer with The Players Group and told him that if Happy Farm ever needed a home after his last race, she wanted him with her in Kentucky.

“Steve with The Players Group was super, super nice. Really loved the horse and wanted to keep running him but he was now 10,” Brooks said.

“Then he ran for [$5,000] and didn’t run well. Steve sent me a message after he last race and said he looked me up and done his research on my background.”

Arrangements were then made to send Happy Farm to Brooks.

“The Reason I gave [Happy Farm] to Jocelyn is that I didn’t feel it was right to keep running him,” Schauer said. “It seems he may have just checked out. He’s a very sound horse but wasn’t putting out the effort like he used to.

“So I said it’s time for him to retire. He’s a really cool horse. I don’t know how to describe him. He seems like he’s part human or something. He understands everything around him.”

Brooks has no immediate plans for Happy Farm but believes he has potential for a new career when he’s ready.

“[Happy Farm] is obviously a sound horse. I’m going to let him have just a little bit of time to get fat and relax without anybody asking anything of him. He’s eligible to do the [Thoroughbred] Makeover next year. So I think it would be really cool to do it again and do it with him.”

Jocelyn participated in the 2023 Thoroughbred Makeover with Maryland’s Pride

“It’s a wonderful event. It draws thousands. [Multiple stakes-winning millionaire] Arklow won his division last year. It’s really cool to see such an accomplished horse win a fox hunting competition. It has really drawn a demand for retired racehorses which is so important.”

Happy Farm in Retirement – Photo courtesy Jocelyn Brooks

But for now, Brooks has Happy Farm enjoying a life with little concern except an occasional central Kentucky heatwave.

“He’s turned out with another gelding at a private farm in Lexington. It’s been so hot here that I go out and visit him and squirt him with the hose and he just loves it,” Brooks said.

“It’s funny. He’s had a lot of owners and has spent a lot of years on the track and you don’t know if he’s going to be the same cool kind of guy. But he’s just everything he always was. He’s sweet. He’s smart. Nothing gets him excited. He’s just very even keeled.

“After all these years, he still has that great personality. When I got him. His weight looked great. His coat looked great. You can tell after 10 years and 52 races, he really was handling it all really well.”

Return to the June 27 issue of Wire to Wire