07/30/2016 7:00PM

Longshot Laoban leads start to finish in Jim Dandy Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Laoban wins the Jim Dandy on Saturday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Eric Guillot, the court jester of the backstretch, had the last laugh in Saturday’s Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga.

Guillot won the Jim Dandy with the maiden Laoban, the longest shot on the board at 27-1, who led from start to finish under Jose Ortiz and won by 1 1/4 lengths.

Governor Malibu, the New York-bred who ran fourth in the Belmont Stakes, rallied along the inside to get second by a neck over Belmont Stakes runner-up Destin. It was 4 1/4 lengths back to Mohaymen, the 7-5 favorite who stumbled at the start. He was followed by Race Me Home and Creator, the Belmont Stakes winner who ran last throughout.

Guillot had taken shots with Laoban before, running him in five graded stakes before this, including the Preakness, where he finished sixth, 12 lengths behind Exaggerator. He did finish second in the Grade 2 Gotham at Aqueduct and third in the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita.

Guillot initially was going to Laoban in a maiden race here, but altered course when he was told by New York Racing Association officials the Jim Dandy was coming up a short field.

“They told me who was in there. I said, 'All the speed is across town in the Haskell,’ ” said Guillot, who trains Laoban for Mike Moreno’s Southern Equine Stable and McCormick Racing. “I said you know what? I’m going to take a shot. He’s doing good.

“My partner and I don’t dance to elevator music,” Guillot added. “We dance to Zydeco. Who wants to run in a maiden? He’s multiple graded-stakes placed. I can break his maiden any time I want.”

Laoban’s weapon has always been his speed, but he had difficulty rationing it out properly. Saturday, under Jose Oritz, Laoban made the lead rather easily, maintaining a one-length advantage through a quarter in 24.56 seconds and a half-mile in 49.07 while being chased by Destin.

Mohaymen, making his first start since the Kentucky Derby, stumbled at the start under Junior Alvarado, but quickly recovered and was third early. Alvarado said he did not think the stumble mattered or cost him a position.

Laoban continued to cruise on the lead approaching the quarter pole and turned for home 1 1/2 lengths in front. Destin wasn’t going on, but Governor Malibu was attempting to rally along the rail.

Joel Rosario guided Governor Malibu off the rail at the sixteenth pole, but he and Destin both just finished evenly as Laoban kept going.
Laoban, a son of Uncle Mo, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.39 and returned $56 to win.

“When he broke and I saw nobody put a lot of pressure on me I knew the horse was fit enough to go in this race,” Ortiz said. “On the backside they let me go easier. By the three-eighths pole I could hear they’re already smooching and I’m just waiting. When I asked him to go right before the quarter pole he responded very well.”

The biggest mishap for Ortiz was galloping back to the winner’s circle when Laoban stumbled and unseated Ortiz. The horse continued back to the winner’s circle, where he was easily corralled. Ortiz got a ride back from the ambulance; he had a cut on his elbow, and a bruised ego perhaps.

Aside from Governor Malibu, who ran a solid race, the other connections of Laoban’s vanquished were left to scratch their heads. Destin seemed to be in a good position early on under Javier Castellano, but just ran evenly and lost second by a neck to Governor Malibu.

“We got the trip we wanted,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Javier said he just feels like he’s still a little unfocused, just kind of eyeballing that horse in front of him and, when Governor Malibu came, then he dug back in. He saw the [tire] tracks, then he went back to his left lead, like he’s still figuring it out a little bit."

Alvarado said turning for home Mohaymen was “coming steady, but he didn’t feel to me he was the same horse. I can’t really figure it out right now.”

Steve Asmussen, the trainer of Belmont Stakes winner Creator, was compromised by a pedestrian pace.

“They went into the first turn in a canter,” Asmussen said. “A very oddly run race.”

The top three finishers from the Jim Dandy are all likely to come back in the Travers, along with Creator as well as Curlin Stakes 1-2 finishers Connect and Gift Box.