Laki returns to winner’s circle with near-track record at Laurel
by Frank Vespe
On a day when the Laurel Park racing strip played fast, the fastest horse on the card nearly logged a track record.
Five-year-old Laki, making just his second start since last May, romped to a 3 1/2-length win in a $45,000 allowance test, motoring the 5 1/2-furlong distance in 1:02.65 — just a beat off the course record of 1:02.41 established by War and Thunder in 2014.
Jockey Horacio Karamanos “said he’s still learning,” said winning trainer Damon Dilodovico. “It’s always good when the rider says that after a win.”
Laki, sent off as the 3-5 favorite, grabbed the early advantage while pressed by Bluegrass Luck in the early stages. Those two were a length apart after an opening quarter-mile in a sharp 21.67 seconds.
Bluegrass Luck tried Laki after three-eighths of a mile, getting to within a half-length, but soon was disposed of by his rival. Bluegrass Luck ultimately faded to last in the seven-horse field.
In the lane, Laki spurted clear when put to the stick and was allowed to relax in the race’s late stages. J R’s Rhythm rallied to grab second, while veteran Miner’s Quest was third.
Laki returned $3.20 as the solid favorite, and the exacta was good for $8.10 for a buck.
“It looked pretty easy for going that fast, in my opinion,” said Dilodovico.
It was a case of patience rewarded for Dilodovico and owner Hillside Equestrian Meadows. Laki, who finished tenth on the turf in his career debut, won his first four starts on the dirt in late 2016 and early 2017. Among those was a win in the Not for Love Stakes for Maryland-breds.
That led his connections to enter him in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap on Preakness day at Pimlico, in which he finished fifth after a rough trip.
“He got jammed up a little bit in the Pimlico race last spring, and the owner wanted to give him some time off,” Dilodovico said.
But just as they were nearing a start, a minor injury presented another setback. By the time Dilodovico was ready to enter Laki, what had been intended to be a two-month freshening had turned into 10 months off.
In his return to action March 18, Laki ran well, pressing the early pace before making the lead, but he ultimately settled for second behind Tipsy Moose. That runner returned to action last weekend, winning for the fourth consecutive time.
That set him up for today’s big effort.
Laki, a gelding by Cuba, was bred in Maryland by Tom Michaels and Lorna Baker. He is out of the winning Swear by Dixie mare Truthful Dutch. His name means “luck” in the Hawaiian language.
“We’ll see how he comes out of this,” the trainer said.
Dilodovico said a return try in the Maryland Sprint might be in order. “If not,” he added, “we still have the three-other-than (allowance).”