01/12/2007 12:00AM

Laila's Punch developing into a knockout

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Laila Ali, the women's boxing champion and daughter of Mohammed Ali, has a namesake that bears watching.

Laila's Punch, a Maryland-bred daughter of Two Punch, has delivered a stunning blow to her competition in each of her two latest starts, most recently Laurel Park's Marshua Stakes on Jan. 6.

Owned by New York resident Morris Bailey, who bought her from breeder Dennis Drazin for $80,000 at the 2005 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale, Laila's Punch has been brought along patiently by her trainer, Eddie Gaudet, and his wife, Linda, at Bowie Training Center.

But based on her obvious talent, the Gaudets aimed high for her first start, sending her out in the Gin Talking Stakes for Maryland-breds on Sept. 16 at Laurel.

Laila's Punch finished nearly 15 lengths behind the winner, Your Flame in Me, in a less-than-auspicious debut.

"She ran absolutely green," Linda Gaudet said.

That is her only loss. She scored a front-running 8 1/2-length win in maiden special weight company at six furlongs on Oct. 12 at Laurel, then went right into the unrestricted 5 1/2-furlong Marshua.

Sent off as the 8-5 favorite in a field of seven in the Marshua, Laila's Punch made a decisive move four wide in the stretch and drew off to win by six lengths.

Soon after the Marshua, Eddie Gaudet began talking about future rounds in top competition. Among his goals for Laila's Punch is the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on Preakness Week at Pimlico, although her next start is undecided.

Drazin, a New Jersey-based breeder-owner who serves as president and longtime legal counsel to that state's horsemen's group, bred Laila's Punch from the Holy Bull mare Morning Tease, whom he boarded at Robert P. Levy's now defunct Muirfield East Farm in Chesapeake City, Md.

Morning Tease, also bred by Drazin, was a product of a long association between Drazin and New Jersey-based Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Croll, who trained her sire to Horse of the Year honors in 1994.

As Drazin recalls, Croll recommended the mating between Holy Bull and Drazin's mare Bad Pussycat (by Distinctive Pro). Bad Pussycat produced as her first foal Morning Tease's full sister Bam Bam Bull, a stakes winner bred and owned by Drazin and trained by Croll.

Morning Tease never was tested on the racetrack.

"She was back at the knee, and Jimmy was afraid she wouldn't stand training," said Drazin.

But Morning Tease's record as a broodmare raises visions of what might have been. She produced only two foals - both stakes performers - before she died at age 5, in 2004.

Her first foal is Laila's Punch's full brother Travelin Leroy, a colt who appeared to have unlimited prospects after winning his maiden in impressive style at first asking in May of his 2-year-old season at Belmont Park in 2005. Owner Mike Gill had paid $250,000 for the son of Two Punch at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's February auction of 2-year-olds in training. Travelin Leroy finished third in the 2005 Maryland Juvenile Championship Stakes, but did not live up to earlier expectations at 3.

For owner Morris Bailey, who has campaigned several stakes winners with the Gaudets during an association that spans nearly 20 years, Laila's Punch could turn out to be the horse of a lifetime. But Bailey, a real estate developer with offices in lower Manhattan, also has another potential star.

That is Smarty Jones's 2-year-old full sister, an unnamed Elusive Quality filly whom the Gaudets purchased on Bailey's account for $295,000 at the Keeneland September sale.

"She is absolutely gorgeous," Linda Gaudet said of the Smarty Jones sibling, who is now getting her early education in Florida.