08/12/2009 12:00AM

Lady's Laughter to step up


It's about the time of year when 3-year-old fillies start trying their elders in stakes company. Given no better alternative, trainer Charlie Lopresti said he won't mind giving Lady's Laughter a shot at some fairly accomplished mares when the signature race of the Ellis Park meet, the Grade 3, $100,000 Gardenia Stakes, is run Saturday for the 28th time.

"She's fit enough now, and I know she has the talent," said Lopresti. "Looking at this race, I know it's going to be tough, but this is a pretty nice filly here."

Lady's Laughter was one of at least nine fillies and mares expected when entries were to be taken Thursday at Ellis in Henderson, Ky., for the one-mile Gardenia, the only graded race of the meet. The other probables were Abby's Angel, Divine Sanction, Elizabeth Park, French Kiss, Marquee Delivery, Tensas Yucatan, Unforgotten, and Whirlie Bertie.

In her last start, Lady's Laughter easily won a July 25 allowance prep at Ellis, but that effort is hardly what recommends her. No, it was a rallying allowance win at Keeneland in April, followed by two graded races at Churchill Downs, the Eight Belles and Dogwood, when Lady's Laughter, a Distorted Humor filly, began showing her quality. In both Churchill stakes, she flashed sustained speed before fading late.

"Those races were my fault," said the Keeneland-based Lopresti. "We just sent her on Derby Day [in the Eight Belles], and when she ran back in the Dogwood, she was still pretty sharp from that last race. She was really on the engine in the paddock before the Dogwood, too."

Lopresti said he vanned Lady's Laughter from Keeneland to be schooled in the Ellis Park gate and paddock one day when he happened to be running another horse in an Ellis race and before the filly posted her July 25 runaway score.

"We've been trying to slow her down in the mornings and back off her just a little bit, get her back to where she'll come from just off it," he said. "The way she ran last time, I have to think she's coming into the Gardenia the right way."

Besides Lady's Laughter, the other likely favorites for the Gardenia figure to be Marquee Delivery and Unforgotten, the respective two-three finishers behind Swift Temper in the Gardenia last year, and Abby's Angel, a Chicago shipper who has won her last three starts and will be making her stakes debut.

Divine Sanction, likely one of the bigger prices in the field, is the only other 3-year-old in the prospective lineup.

Unlike in prior years, the Gardenia will be a stand-alone feature on Saturday. Three other stakes, including the Ellis Juvenile and Fisher Debutante, had helped to make up a "Big Four Saturday," but they were among the races scrapped this year in drastic cost-cutting measures by Ellis ownership. In fact, only four stakes are being run during the 28-day meet.

Saturday will feature a Gardenia Stakes glass giveaway to those in attendance.