Laki (#4) toughed out a nose victory in the 2020 Grade 3 De Francis Dash at Pimlico. Photo by Allison Janezic.

Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki, unraced since finishing sixth in defense of last fall’s Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) victory, is set to return for his 39th career start in the $100,000 Dave’s Friend Dec. 26 at Laurel Park.

The 18th running of the Dave’s Friend for 3-year-olds and up and 11th renewal of the Willa On the Move for fillies and mares 3 and up, both sprinting six furlongs, are among six $100,000 stakes on a nine-race Christmastide Day program.

Laki broke outwardly and was never able to get into contention in the six-furlong De Francis Sept. 18 at Laurel, winding up well behind first-place finisher Wondrwherecraigis, who would be disqualified to second for interference but go on to win the Bold Ruler (G3) in his subsequent start.

Laki, an 8-year-old Cuba gelding, was given plenty of time to recover by trainer Damon Dilodovico, not returning to the work tab until Nov. 21. His last two breezes have come since Laurel’s main track underwent renovations in early December.

“I’m glad we were able to get a second breeze on the new surface. I think that will help,” Dilodovico said. “Maybe that will work out as an advantage for those of us that are stabled here.

“He seems ready. We gave him a little break after the Dash, which he always seems to come back well from. We’re pretty happy with where he is right now,” he added. “He earned the time off. He’s a warrior.”

Laki is 11-for-38 lifetime, including 19-for-24 in the top three at Laurel, with $833,162 in purse earnings. He has won at least one stakes race five straight years, a streak he extended in the Frank Y. Whiteley going six furlongs April 24 at Pimlico Race Course. He also leads MATCH dirt sprinters with 21 points will clinch a third straight division title following 2018 and 2019. The Series was shelved in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We may race him next year but I think we’ll decide after this. We do plan on giving him another real winter break after this race and we’ll see how he is afterward,” Dilodovico said. “[Owner Paul ‘Buck’] Kalinowski will hopefully have a spot and can take him back home. He’s rehabbed very well at his farm up in Connecticut.

“He’s done a good job with him. Hopefully he can take him up there and keep an eye on him and send us back a fresh old man,” he added. “That said, we won’t [push] him. He’s done his job. If he decides he wants to stop, we’ll stop. But we are going into the season with at least the thought that we’ll bring him back.”

Regular rider Horacio Karamanos has the call on Laki from the rail in a field of eight.

Other top contenders include multiple stakes winner Whereshetoldmetogo, a winner of nearly $750,000; 2021 Maryland Million Sprint winner Air Token and ’20 winner Karan’s Notion; and Charles Town shipper Penguin Power, winner of the WVBC Onion Juice three straight years.