Laughing has not been a lot of fun to run against this year. A perfect four-for-four this season, Laughing enters the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) not as the favorite, but certainly as the one to catch. The fleet 5-year-old has led at every call in her last three races, all graded stakes scores in New York.
In addition to her speed, Laughing's main talent is her toughness. She has refused to let horses pass her in the stretch, and not just any horses. Graded stakes winners such as Dayatthespa, Pianist, Stephanie's Kitten, and Tannery have all tested her in the lane, and none have been able to get the better of her.
Laughing (Dansili—Comic, by Be My Chief) began her career in her native Ireland, winning the Nijinsky Stakes in her fourth start. Former trainer and TV analyst Frank Lyons, now working as a bloodstock agent, found her in the yard of trainer Charles O'Brien.
"I had met (owner) Richard Santulli in 2008 at a Big Brown party in New York," Lyons said. "He said, 'You buy horses for people, why don't you ever buy a horse for me?' I waited two years before I called him because I wanted to buy the right one. I wanted to buy horses for him for a long time."
Mission accomplished. Lyons and his partner Niall Dalton purchased both Laughing and Tannery for Santulli, and both are now grade I winners.
Laughing has improved a great deal since the purchase. Earlier in her career she was a nervous filly who didn't handle travel well.
"She has settled down over the two years that I've had her," Goldberg said. "We have a little bit of a better routine with her now than we had starting out. She is kind of a tough filly; she trains hard and gets a bit determined. So far this year she's been mentally tough."
A winner of the Matchmaker Stakes (gr. IIT) last season wire-to-wire, Laughing hit a dry patch in her last three starts of 2012. Goldberg was still getting her right, and has overcome a problem with ulcers. Laughing was off from late October last year to late June, when she won the Eatontown Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Monmouth Park over Dayatthespa and Ruthenia. At Saratoga Race Course she powered to victory in the Diana (gr. IT) over Dream Peace, and then sped to victory over Pianist in the Ballston Spa (gr. IIT).
Back downstate at Belmont Park, Laughing set easy fractions and held off her stablemate Tannery in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT). Each of her four 2013 victories have been by less than a length, speaking to her mental toughness.
"She's really come good," Lyons said. "I knew it in the Diana when she dueled those fillies into submission. You could see her body language change going into that race. She had always been a nervous filly, and she seems to have gotten what racing is all about. She's calmed down and started to like what she's doing, and the nervousness is replaced by being relaxed and cool. With her mind catching up to her ability, she has really become something."
Goldberg said if Laughing can handle the shipping to the West Coast and get acclimated, all systems should be go.
Laughing is facing her toughest task to date at Santa Anita Park. While she figures to be on the front end, Marketing Mix, the runner-up in this event a year ago, is likely to assume a tracking position and will be dangerous close to home. Late runners Dank, Alterite, Tiz Flirtatious, and Romantica will have to be dealt with at money time as well.
"We're optimistic," Goldberg said. "That's all you can do in this business. Most of the time things go wrong, but maybe they'll go right for us. She's fit, she's been running all year, and training hard."
And he's hoping to have the last laugh.