Richard Santulli's Laughing captured her third victory in as many starts this year with a hard-fought wire-to-wire victory in the Ketel One Ballston Spa Stakes (gr. IIT) Aug. 24 at Saratoga Race Course (VIDEO).
With Jose Lezcano riding for trainer Alan Goldberg, Irish-bred Laughing established herself as among the top turf mares in the country. The 5-year-old by Dansili out of the Be My Chief mare Comic won the Diana Stakes (gr. IT) at Saratoga in her previous start. She began her season with a win in the Eatontown Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park.
The Ballston Spa, at 1 1/16 miles on grass, was decided in the first quarter-mile. Laughing grabbed the lead from post 1, with Pianist just to her outside in post 2 and Hard Not to Like three-wide from post 7. The order of the top three never changed.
Laughing led the way on a firm course through moderate early fractions of :23.89 for the first quarter-mile, :48.41 for a half-mile, and 1:12.39 for six furlongs with Pianist just to her outside. Laughing then picked it up when challenged by Pianist through one mile in 1:34.79, and held firm to the wire in 1:40.37, a little more than one second off the course record.
The sleek bay mare held on to win by a neck over Pianist as the narrow 5-2 second choice behind Hungry Island, who also went off at 5-2 odds while finishing fourth.
Laughing, bred by Floors Farming and The Duke of Devonshire, paid $7.30 to win and capped a $24.30 exacta with Pianist. The trifecta, with Hard Not to Like in third, returned $305.50.
"It was a great race," Goldberg said. "She ran well, and hopefully she'll come back well. She's a trier. She's real healthy now, and I think she'll be a pretty good force in the filly-and-mare division. She's pretty tough. I actually thought she would (win).
"The other filly hung in there pretty good. Looking at her form, it looked like (Pianist) wanted to have the lead. She had run her best races on the lead. It was a good horse race; it turned out really well."
"I figured to be up there with the pace," Lezcano said. "I let her break, and go from there. I liked the trip. She jumped a little in the bit, but when I asked at the quarter pole, she took off. It was kind of the same trip as the Diana. She felt comfortable and I let her do whatever she wanted. She is a very nice filly."
Laughing has now won seven of 14 starts, with two seconds and two thirds. She has banked $818,855. All of her victories have come on turf.