Keep Laughing (inside, white silks) hangs on over Hatta Fort to take the Lafayette at Keeneland April 6.

Keep Laughing (inside, white silks) hangs on over Hatta Fort to take the Lafayette at Keeneland April 6.

Pat Lang/Keeneland

Keep Laughing May Be Preakness Bound

The 3-year-old won the April 6 Lafayette by a nose at Keeneland.

Vision Racing’s Keep Laughing made a successful leap from the maiden ranks to stakes winner, holding off Hatta Fort by a nose to take the $110,300 Lafayette April 6 at Keeneland, and in the process may have stamped his ticket to the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

A 3-year-old son of Distorted Humor , Keep Laughing was making just his third career start in the Lafayette, a seven-furlong sprint on Polytrack. He entered off a 6 ¼-length maiden triumph March 5 at Gulfstream Park.

Neal McLaughlin, assistant trainer to his brother, Kiaran, said they have been high on the dark bay colt all along, and now a chance at a Triple Crown race might be in the works.

“We we’re kind of running out of time with him, and we needed to step up and find out if he was a Triple Crown type of horse,” said McLaughlin. “Today was a big test for him and he proved that he is a top-notch 3-year-old, and we might be looking at the Preakness or something like that down the road.

“He’s a royally-bred horse (out of the Personal Flag mare It’s Personal) and we’ve always been high on him. He proved today that he was worth that praise and we’re going to have a lot of fun with him.”

Under John Velazquez, Keep Laughing was never far off the aggressive pace which was set by Swale (gr. II) winner Eaton’s Gift (:22.92, :46.08, 1:10.35). Keep Laughing tracked four-wide, got within striking range at the top of the stretch, and took over at the sixteenth pole.

With Eaton’s Gift unable to sustain his run, Keep Laughing only had to hold of Hatta Fort, who made a bold move from last and then came out seven-wide for his stretch run. But Keep Laughing got to the wire just in time.

"Every time I asked him for a little more, he just gave it to me," Velazquez said. "He felt (Hatta Fort on the outside), kind of took a deep breath, and went on again. I'm very proud of him."

Keep Laughing, who was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, completed the seven furlongs in 1:22.26. He paid $12.40, $6.20,and $4.20. The exacta (8-3) was worth $98. Eaton’s Gift finished third, filling out a $165.80 trifecta (8-3-4).

Multiple graded stakes winner Kodiak Kowboy finished fourth as the even-money favorite. The Posse colt was never a factor.

(Chart, Equibase)