03/30/2007 11:00PM

Laila's Punch never gives up


Laila's Punch, the 6-5 favorite, was severely tested three times in the stretch run of the $86,400 Smart Halo at Laurel Park, and she never cracked.

Ridden by Jeremy Rose, Laila's Punch could have quit when she was forced five wide turning for home in the six-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.

She could have quit when the 7-5 second-choice, Now It Begins, moved right with her on her outside and battled her nose-to-nose the length of the stretch. And she surely could have quit, or at least weakened a bit, when 7-1 Paying Off came flying with a fresh challenge late in deep stretch.

But Laila's Punch relentlessly held off Paying Off by a head at the wire, with Now It Begins another nose back in third. A daughter of Two Punch out of a Holy Bull mare, Laila's Punch was timed in 1:12.39 and paid $4.40.

The victory raised her record to 3 wins and 1 second in 5 starts for trainer Edmond Gaudet and owner Morris Bailey. Her $54,000 share of the purse lifted her earnings to $143,100.