Laki Tests Pimlico Streak in $150,000 Maryland Sprint (G3)

Dontletsweetfoolya Back in Action for $100,000 Runhappy Skipat

BALTIMORE, MD | May 12, 2021 – Already having stretched his streak of having captured at least one stakes in each of the past five years, Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Grade 3 winner Laki goes after his third straight victory at Pimlico Race Course in Saturday’s $150,000 Maryland Sprint (G3).

The 34th running of the Maryland Sprint for 3-year-olds and up and 28th edition of the $100,000 Runhappy Skipat for fillies and mares 3 and older, both at six furlongs, are among 10 stakes, six graded, worth $2.25 million in purses on a spectacular 14-race program headlined by the 146th renewal of the Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Other graded-stakes on the card are the $250,000 Dinner Party (G2) for 3-year-olds and up and $150,000 Gallorette (G3) for females 3 and older going 1 1/16 miles on the turf; $200,000 Chick Lang (G3) for 3-year-olds sprinting six furlongs; and $100,000 UAE President Cup (G1) for Arabian horses.

First race post time is 10:30 a.m.

Bred and based in Maryland with trainer Damon Dilodovico, Laki has run twice previously in the Maryland Sprint, finishing fifth in 2017 and sixth in 2018. Those were the 8-year-old gelding’s only other races at Pimlico before notching the biggest win of his 33-race career in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial (G3) last fall on the undercard of 145th Preakness (G1).

Laki went winless in four subsequent starts, all in stakes, including a third in the Feb. 20 General George (G3) at Laurel Park before outfinishing fellow multiple stakes winner Lebda for a half-length triumph in Pimlico’s six-furlong Frank Y. Whiteley April 24.

“I always thought he would like this surface. Going back and looking at his races, maybe it wasn’t so much his doing. I think in a couple of them he got bounced around. I don’t care where he is, he finds trouble. He could be in an elevator by himself and he’ll bump into something. So maybe it was that,” Dilodovico said. “I kind of felt like this surface would be good to him, but his last couple have been fantastic. As long as he keeps doing that, it’s way better than the other stuff.”

Dilodovico has been encouraged by the way Laki bounced out of the Whiteley, particularly with a three-week turnaround to the Maryland Sprint. Regular rider Horacio Karamanos has the call from the rail in a field of 11. All horses will carry 122 pounds.

“Hopefully, he’s up to it. I normally don’t like running him back this quick,” Dilodovico said. “He came out of the race very well. He usually gets a group of days off, three or four, and he was really feeling it and I knew we were coming back quick so we only gave him a couple days off this time and he was right back on the track. He’s doing pretty well.”

Euro Stable’s Lebda will face Laki for the fifth straight race, after running fourth in the General George and third in the Fire Plug this year and fifth in the Dave’s Friend in December. Lebda finished 2 ¼ lengths ahead of Laki in the six-furlong Fire Plug.

Lebda has not won since taking the Miracle Wood and Private Terms in succession at Laurel in the winter of 2020. The 4-year-old gelding has run second or third three times over the last eight races, including the Whiteley, where trainer Claudio Gonzalez’s strategy nearly paid off.

“All the time we look too much in the paper [and say], ‘This one has speed or that one has speed,’” Gonzalez, Maryland’s leading trainer the past four years, said. “The last time I said, ‘Ok, I don’t want to look at anybody. We’ll go.’ He did a good job taking the lead and tried to go easy, and he ran a big race. He got beat by a really good horse.”

Lebda had a bullet five-furlong work in 1:00.80 May 6 at Pimlico, fastest of seven horses, leading into the Maryland Sprint. J.D. Acosta rides from Post 10.

“The horse breezed the other day and he felt good. I’m very happy with how he’s doing,” Gonzalez said. “It’s racing, anything can happen.”

Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher’s Special Reserve enters the Maryland Sprint after running second by 1 ¼ lengths in the seven-furlong Commonwealth (G3) April 3 at Keeneland, his second start since being claimed for $40,000 by trainer Mike Maker. It was the 18 career start and first in a stakes for the 5-year-old gelding.

Courtlandt Farm’s Strike Power, by champion sprinter Speightstown, won each of his first two starts including the 2018 Swale (G3) at Gulfstream Park second time out, but has won just twice in 14 starts since though placed twice in graded-stakes. He was a 3 ½-length allowance winner March 11 and was fourth in the Count Fleet (G3) April 10, both six furlongs at Oaklawn, the latter less than two lengths behind runner-up Whitmore, the 2020 male sprint champion.

Strike Power is now trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, winner of the last two editions of the Maryland Sprint with Switzerland in 2018 and New York Central in 2019. The race was not run in 2020 when the schedule was altered amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“He’s coming off those good races at Oaklawn,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “It’s good timing to this.”

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and William Branch’s Frosted Grace will be making 24th career start and just his third away from South Florida seeking his first stakes victory. The 5-year-old son of Mark Valeski was second in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G2) and Sir Shackleton in his only two starts this year, the latter coming March 27.

Completing the field are 2020 General George runner-up Threes Over Deuces; Mucho, fifth in the Commonwealth; Breezy Gust, Seven Nation Army, War Tocsin and Yodel E.A. Who.

Dontletsweetfoolya Back in Action for $100,000 Runhappy Skipat

Five Hellions Farm’s multiple stakes winner Dontletsweetfoolya, unraced since having her five-race win streak snapped in the Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) Feb. 20, is set to make her return in Saturday’s $100,000 Runhappy Skipat at Pimlico Race Course.

Dontletsweetfoolya ran seventh in the seven-furlong Fritchie, her graded-stakes debut, after drawing an inside post and dueling up front with fellow multiple stakes winner Hello Beautiful for more than a half-mile. It was also the first time in nine career starts the Stay Thirsty filly ran without Lasix.

“I don’t work them on Lasix or anything like that. She came out of it fine,” trainer Lacey Gaudet said. “I use a different system and I looked at all the numbers. Obviously, she ran bad last time and got a crappy number. We’re going to hope that we can throw that race out. I’m really hoping she can come back to a win.”

Dontletsweetfoolya needed four starts to break her maiden, graduating by 9 ½ lengths last July over a sloppy track at Laurel Park and kicking off a streak where she won by 28 ¾ combined lengths, all in front-running fashion. It included an allowance win last October at Pimlico as well as the Primonetta in November and Willa On the Move in December at Laurel, each sprinting six furlongs.

Gaudet gave Dontletsweetfoolya a break following the Fritchie, one extended during an equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) quarantine at Laurel that wasn’t lifted until mid-May. She has worked twice this month at Delaware Park including a five-furlong move in 1:00 May 9.

“It was unwarranted time, but it really was good for her,” Gaudet said. “We took our horses to our farm at the house and she really did flourish. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe she needed the 21 days away. Until she runs I’m going to say I definitely don’t think it hurt her.”

Gaudet has been impressed by how Dontletsweetfoolya has developed, not only during the down time but also as she has gained more experience through training and racing and with the addition of the barn mascot, a baby goat named Doris.

“She’s changed a lot in the last six months. She’s really become more of a laid-back filly. It’s kind of hard to say because of her last race that she doesn’t want to run anymore, but I think between the goat and maturing a little bit, she’s just really become a little more relaxed,” Gaudet said. “I’d like to see her get outside and maybe she can relax off the pace and make a move. I think that’s what she’s going to end up liking as she matures.”

Ten Strike Racing’s French Empire will be racing first time for her owners and reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, who bypassed the Vagrancy (G3) May 8 at Belmont for this spot. Claimed for $20,000 last September by trainer and co-owner Cipriano Contreras, she enters the Skipat having won four straight races, two on the all-weather surface at Turfway Park and two at Oaklawn Park.

“She’s in really good form. Obviously she was a private purchase, and she’s trained very well since we’ve had her. We really like her. We actually had her in the Vagrancy and we opted for the listed stakes as opposed to the graded,” Cox said. “Cipriano Contreras claimed her and he did well with her. We’re hopeful we can continue her good form.”

Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc. and Stretch Run Ventures’ Casual ran behind such horses as Grade 1 winner Kimari and multiple Grade 2 winner Frank’s Rockette while placing in back-to-back stakes at Oaklawn Park over the winter and spring. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen won the 2018 Skipat with Vertical Oak.

“She ran well at Oaklawn. It’s good timing from those races to the Preakness weekend,” Asmussen’s assistant, Scott Blasi, said. “She’s good.”

Daniel Lopez and George Chestnut’s Chub Wagon has yet to taste defeat in five career starts, four of them at trainer Guadalupe Preciado’s Parx base, including the seven-furlong Unique Bella by 7 ½ lengths April 27. She also shipped up to Aqueduct to capture a six-furlong optional claiming allowance by 4 ¾ lengths April 2.

Never Enough Time, front-running three-quarter-length winner of the 2020 Skipat; Club Car, third in the 2021 Barbara Fritchie (G3); Call On Mischief and Paisley Singing are also entered.