Laki (#4) toughed out a nose victory in the Grade 3 De Francis Dash at Pimlico. Photo by Allison Janezic.

In one of the graded stakes leading up to the featured Grade I Preakness Stakes this Saturday afternoon at Pimlico Race Course, a quartet of local trainers will look to topple the invading conditioners in the Grade 3, $150,000 Maryland Sprint going six furlongs on the dirt.

The Maryland Sprint, for three-year-olds and up, goes as the 11th race on the 14-race card. Post time for the 11th is 4:41 p.m.

Of the four local runners looking to attain the graded stakes score on Saturday, Laki (Horacio Karamanos) not only already sports such a tally on his resume, but the Maryland-bred also boasts two wins, including a graded score, over the strip for trainer Damon Dilodovico and owner Hillside Equine Meadows. Last month Laki prevailed in the $100,000 Frank Whiteley Stakes at Pimlico in a snappy 1:09.33.

Saturday the lone Maryland-bred in the field will look to add a second graded stakes win to his ledger. He previously triumphed in the G3 Frank DeFrancis Memorial Dash last Oct. 3 on the belated Preakness Day.

“Going into the General George, I was a little concerned with how he would come out of the race having to run without Lasix,” Dilodovico said. “I was worried how it might affect his lungs. But he came out of that race in good shape, but I was glad he could get Lasix for the Whiteley. He ran big that day. I am actually more concerned with the post position than the medication. Drawing the rail is tough in the sprints. Everyone is dropping over leaving the gate, and you can get boxed in and then only have so much time to get out.”

Last year’s Maryland-bred champion sprinter, Laki has won once in three starts this year and now sports an 11-7-6 slate and over $800,000 banked from 33 career outings. He has notched six-figure stakes in each of his last two outings at Pimlico. Laki’s win in last year’s De Francis Dash was the trainer’s second De Francis score but first graded stakes victory; Immortal Eyes’s 2013 triumph in that event came when the race was ungraded.

“He’s really had a very good career,” Dilodovico said of Laki, a son of Cuba. “He’s always been good sprinting and he’s done well in the stakes. He usually breaks well, so he can usually work out a good stalking trip. He’s going to run his race on Saturday, even without Lasix. My main concern with him now is the trip. I would have preferred an outside post to the rail. We’re just hoping that he has some luck.”

In the Whiteley, Lebda displayed his usual early speed and then settled for second to Laki in a gritty effort for trainer Claudio Gonzalez and owner Euro Stable. Winless in three stakes outings this year, Lebda owns four wins and nearly $300,000 banked from 16 career tries. Saturday’s Maryland Sprint start will mark his 14th consecutive stakes appearance. Five of his previous stakes outings have come in graded events, including the Haskell Invitational, Ohio Derby and General George where wins have been elusive to date.

“For me, running in the big races is different,” Gonzalez said. “I’m not crazy about running if they don’t have a chance. This horse, I believe, is a very good horse. he can run. I know this race is going to be tough. I believe there will be a lot of speed in the race. I would have liked to have the seven or eight position. But it all depends on how much he has to do early.”

Trainer Gary Capuano will send out Threes Over Deuces who finished sixth in an allowance race last month at Pimlico in his seasonal debut, seven months after ending his 2020 campaign with a victory in the New Castle Stakes at Delaware Park. The six-year-old Flat Out gelding trained by Capuano for the Pocket 3’s Racing LLC sports a 6-12-7 slate and over $430,000 banked from 33 career outings. He will be seeking his first graded stakes triumph on Saturday. He finished second in the General George in 2020 and was also the runner-up in three other stakes before prevailing in the New Castle last fall.

“He’s run some big numbers, he’s just been unfortunate,” Capuano said. “He’s missed in a couple of allowance conditions where he was real close and just got beat. When he’s right, he’s run lights out. You’ve just got to space him out and make sure he’s good. If he gets a little too close in his races, he doesn’t perform as well. He needs some time between. But when he’s right, he’s tough.”

While local racing fans have seen Laki, Lebda and Three’s Over Deuces compete on numerous occasions at Maryland venues, Yodel E.A. Who will make his local debut for trainer Brittany Russell. Yodel E.A. Who graduated in his second career outing at Belterra Park in Ohio against maiden special weight company then has spent much of his career at Gulfstream Park, where he recorded his next seven wins. His most recent outing was a third-place finish at Belmont Park for Russell in an allowance/optional $80,000 claiming event with former local riding champion Trevor McCarthy in the irons.