09/26/2013 1:20PM

Flower Bowl Invitational: Laughing tries to remain perfect in 2013


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ELMONT, N.Y. – Five of the eight entrants in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational are foreign-bred horses, but they’ve all been racing in the United States for a while now. No other Europeans crossed the pond for Saturday’s $600,000 race, which offers a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, so the central question is a familiar one: Who will put some early pressure on Laughing and keep the field’s only Grade 1 winner from, well, laughing all the way to the bank?

Transferred to Alan Goldberg after finishing off the board in the 2011 E.P. Taylor Stakes in her North American debut, Laughing had a productive 4-year-old season, winning twice from six starts, including the Grade 3 Matchmaker. But she has realized her full potential at age 5 and seeks to remain unbeaten in 2013 after taking the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth and the Grade 1 Diana and Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga.

“She had the winter off and she came back well,” said Goldberg, who also will send out Tannery, another Irish-bred, for owner Richard Santulli. “She ran a pretty good race first time out of the box. She came out of the race great, so he said, ‘Let’s take a shot.’ We always thought she had the talent. She was never really 100 percent healthy or 100 percent happy. Now, she is.”

The E.P. Taylor on yielding ground was Laughing’s only previous attempt at Saturday’s 1 1/4-mile distance, and it was her last start without Lasix.

“I think she’ll get the trip,” Goldberg said. “She’s kind of bred to go that far anyway.”

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The distance is no issue for Tannery, who won the 1 3/8-mile Sheepshead Bay in May and turns back from a rallying fourth against males in the 1 1/2-mile Sword Dancer. But all four of her grass wins have come on soft or heavy ground, and Belmont’s inner turf will be firm Saturday.

“I wanted to run her [in the Glens Falls], and it was off the turf, so there aren’t a whole lot of spots,” Goldberg said.

Besides that coupled entry, the only graded stakes winners in the field are Somali Lemonade, another soft-turf specialist whose two Grade 3 triumphs were on yielding turf for Michael Matz, and Mystical Star, who captured last year’s New York Stakes on this course for Christophe Clement.

Graham Motion takes two shots with the uncoupled duo of Qushchi and Valiant Girl, a pair of English-breds coming off respective wins in the ungraded Waya at Saratoga and the Omnibus at Monmouth.

“I think it’s kind of a wide-open race,” Motion said. “A lot of these fillies have done well, but the distance is a bit of an unknown for some of them for sure. We were a little unlucky over the summer. I pointed them both for the Robert Dick Memorial, and it came off the grass and threw me off a little bit.”

Completing the field are Kissable, winless in five starts since taking last year’s Waya for Roger Attfield, and White Rose, the lone 3-year-old, whose trainer, Bill Mott, has won the Flower Bowl four times.