08/24/2013 5:35PM

Saratoga: Laughing stays out front in Ballston Spa

Barbara D. Livingston
Laughing (right) holds off Pianist to win the Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y – In a virtual replay of the Grade 1 Diana Stakes run here four weeks earlier, Laughing, under Jose Lezcano, recorded a front-running victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Ballston Spa Stakes at Saratoga, turning back Pianist by a head.

Pianist, under Mike Smith, pursued Laughing all the way around the speed-favoring inner turf course, finishing second by 2 3/4 lengths over Hard Not To Like.

Hungry Island, the slight 5-2 favorite, finished fourth and was followed in the order of finish by Somali Lemonade, Miz Ida, Embarr, and Centre Court.

The win was the third in as many starts this year for Laughing, and seventh from 14 in her career. Laughing is a 5-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Dansili owned by Richard Santulli and trained by Alan Goldberg.

[SARATOGA 2013: Complete meet coverage, exclusive DRF videos]

Goldberg attributes Laughing’s success this year to being a healthy and happy horse.

“She wasn’t last year, she was sick, she could never shake it,” Goldberg said from New Jersey, where he watched the race. “She’s a little nervous type, we have a horse that ships with her and goes to the paddock with her, and it settles her. She trains in the first set and then is outside for two hours.”

In the Diana, Laughing was the absolute lone speed after the scratch of Dayatthespa. In the Ballston Spa, it appeared as though Pianist, a front-running winner of the Grade 3 Gallorette two back, could be a pace factor.

Goldberg made Lezcano aware of that and told him “If she goes, sit second. If she doesn’t, get your filly comfortable.”

Breaking from the rail, Lezcano got Laughing to the front after a quarter-mile in 23.80 seconds and a half-mile in 48.41. The course, with the rails down, was favoring front-runners, and Laughing maintained her advantage through six furlongs in 1:12.39.

Turning for home, Smith and Pianist appeared ready to pounce, but a strong ride by Lezcano in the stretch helped Laughing prevail.

Laughing covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.37 and returned $7.30 as the second choice.

“She jumped into the bit but after that she relaxed on the backside and when I asked her at the quarter pole she took off again,” Lezcano said. “When she feels comfortable I let her do whatever she wants to do. She’s a very nice filly.”

Chad Brown, trainer of Pianist, has now finished second to Laughing in three straight races.

“These are three good fillies I have run against her, and she handled all three of them,” said Brown who ran second to Laughing with Dayatthespa in the Eatontown and Dream Peace in the Diana.

Goldberg said he will try to stretch Laughing out to 1 1/4 miles in the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park on Sept. 28.