07/27/2013 5:02PM

Saratoga: Laughing takes 'em all the way in Diana

Barbara D. Livingston
Jose Lezcano and Laughing (right) hold off Dream Peace (center) and Stephanie's Kitten to win the Grade 1 Diana Handicap on Saturday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Twenty-four years after winning his first Grade 1 stakes at Saratoga with the speedy filly Safely Kept, trainer Alan Goldberg got his second, this time with the long-distance turf specialist Laughing who led throughout before holding off Dream Peace for a head victory in Saturday’s $600,000 Diana.

Laughing, a 5-year-old Irish-bred mare by Dansili, came into the nine-furlong Diana with only one race under her belt in 2013, having won the Grade 3 Eatontown at Monmouth Park on June 29. And she gained a tactical advantage even before the gates were sprung for the Diana with the scratch of Dayatthespa, which left Laughing as the lone speed in the field.

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

Jockey Jose Lezcano took advantage of that opportunity, sending Laughing right to the lead as expected and getting her to relax through early fractions of 24.24 and 48.19 over the firm course. Centre Court, the 6-5 favorite, joined Laughing on the lead once entering the backstretch and dogged her to the stretch, but could not run on once leaving the final turn.

Laughing was able to edge clear once Centre Court retreated, then had enough left in the tank to withstand a late surge from Dream Peace, who also finished second in this race last year. Stephanie’s Kitten trailed early, came wide into the stretch, and rallied belatedly to finish another half-length farther back in third. Samitar and the tiring Centre Court completed the order of finish.

Laughing, who is owned by Richard Santulli, completed the distance in 1:47.24 and paid $15.80.

“She’s a pretty good filly," said Goldberg. "She had the winter off, came back well and ran a big race last time. So the boss said to take a shot and we did. We thought if Dayatthespa had run, we’d sit right off of her because she really wants the front, but as it turned out it was better this way, I guess. We won.”

Goldberg said it was too early to say where Laughing might run next, but mentioned the Ballston Spa as a possible option later in the meet along with the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont on Sept. 28.