01/08/2014 1:58PM

2013 Eclipse Awards: Laughing

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                                                                photo by: Barbara D. Livingston

When Laughing was entered in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga last July, owner Richard Santulli told trainer Alan Goldberg that the prestigious race was “worth a shot.” Laughing had not started in a Grade 1 prior to the Diana, but she handled the assignment brilliantly. Laughing led throughout and won by a head. The result redefined Laughing’s 2013 season and led to a nomination for the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding turf female.

In the second half of 2013, Santulli and Goldberg raced Laughing in three of the nation’s top races for turf females. She won the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes at Saratoga in late August and the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park in late September. Laughing finished the year with a seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. Laughing was a 5-year-old mare in 2013, which was by far her most successful season. She earned $930,000 in a five-race summer and fall campaign, winning at distances ranging from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/4 miles.

Sadly, Laughing died of complications of colic while undergoing surgery at a veterinary clinic in New Jersey on Jan. 7. Santulli had planned to race Laughing in 2014.

Bred in Ireland, where she was a minor stakes winner in 2011, Laughing won the Grade 3 Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth Park in 2012. She started her 2013 season at the same track, in the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap on June 29. Laughing closed from third in a field of five to win by three-quarters of a length for her third stakes win. The win led to a start in the Diana over 1 1/8 miles. Ridden for the first time by Jose Lezcano, Laughing was in front throughout, stretching a half-length lead on the turn to a length with a furlong remaining. The margin was enough to hold off a late threat from Dream Peace and win by a head. Laughing was equally effective on the lead in the Ballston Spa over 1 1/16 miles on turf. Lezcano had Laughing in front by a length on the backstretch. Through the stretch, Laughing was tested by Pianist, but held off that rival to win by a neck.

The Grade 1 Flower Bowl was Laughing’s first start at 1 1/4 miles on turf. Race strategy was in Laughing’s favor. Laughing set a slow pace, including six furlongs in 1:16, and held off a late threat from the Goldberg-trained Tannery to win by a half-length. The race was part of the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program for the BC Filly and Mare Turf. “She’s better at a mile and a quarter when they go 1:16,” Goldberg said after the race. “But there really wasn’t any pace in the race.”

Immediately after the Flower Bowl, Santulli said Laughing was unlikely to ship to California for the BC Filly and Mare Turf, but the decision was reversed in mid-October. Going to California was a change for Laughing. Goldberg is based at a training center in New Jersey, which allowed him to ship Laughing to the track on race days through most of 2013. Making her first start in California, Laughing did not make the lead in the BC Filly and Mare Turf. She was sixth for the first mile and finished seventh, beaten 2 3/4 lengths by Dank.

The loss was her first setback of 2013. Overall, the 2013 season was a major success. Laughing, by Dansili, won two Grade 1 races in New York, performances that confirmed her status as one of the nation’s finest turf females of 2013.