04/06/2008 12:00AM

Lafayette caps big weekend for McLaughlin

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kiaran McLaughlin didn't even need to be at Keeneland to enjoy a sensational weekend there. One day after the trainer was represented by the victorious Little Belle in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes, the stable knocked out another stakes Sunday when Keep Laughing gamely held off Hatta Fort in the $110,300 Lafayette Stakes.

With John Velazquez aboard for Vision Racing LLC, Keep Laughing got a great trip from just off the pace in the seven-furlong Lafayette. He caught front-running Eaton's Gift at about the sixteenth pole, then lasted just long enough to withstand a furious outside bid from Hatta Fort, ridden by Garrett Gomez. The winning margin was a nose.

While McLaughlin has been in New York, his assistant and brother, Neal, has deputized for him at Keeneland. "He's coming in later this week," said Neal McLauglin, joking: "I might have to tell him to stay home."

Keep Laughing returned $12.40 as third choice in a field of seven 3-year-olds. He finished in 1:22.26 over Polytrack. The Distorted Humor colt was making just his third career start.

Eaton's Gift faded to finish third, 2 3/4 lengths behind the top pair, while Kodiak Kowboy, the even-money favorite, was never a serious threat when finishing another 4 1/2 lengths back in fourth.