Just as she did in the Grade 1 Diana on opening weekend, Laughing led every step to remain undefeated in 2013 while winning the 25th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Ketel One Ballston Spa for fillies and mares on the turf at Saratoga Race Course.
Pianist closely tracked the winner from her outside for the entire 1 1/6 miles but could get no closer than a neck at the wire.
With Jose Lezcano aboard, Laughing set reasonable fractions of 23.89 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 48.41 for a half-mile. Pianist battled hard through the stretch, but Laughing held gamely, stopping the timer in 1:40.37 over a firm inner turf course.
“She's real healthy now and I think she'll be a force in the filly and mare division,” said winning trainer Alan Goldberg. “The other filly hung in there pretty good.”
Laughing, owned by Richard Santulli, increased her career earnings to $818,855 with her seventh win from 14 lifetime starts. A 5-year-old mare by the British stallion Dansili, the winner started her season with a victory in Monmouth's Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap before taking the $500,000 Diana Handicap on July 27.
“She jumped a little in the bit but when I asked at the quarter-pole she took off,” Lezcano said. “It was kind of the same trip as the Diana. She felt comfortable and I let her do whatever she wanted.”
Laughing returned $7.30 for a $2 win wager. Pianist was 2 3/4 lengths ahead of longshot Hard Not to Like in third. The order of finish was completed by favored Hungry Island, Somali Lemonade, Miz Ida, Embarr and Centre Court.
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Ketel One Ballston Spa (G2) Quotes
Alan Goldberg, winning trainer of Laughing (No. 1) [by telephone]: “It was a great race. She ran well, and hopefully she'll come back well. She's a trier. She's real healthy now and I think she'll be a pretty good force in the filly and mare division. She's pretty tough. I actually thought she would [do it]. The other filly hung in there pretty good. Looking at her form, it looked like [Pianist] wanted to have the lead. She'd run her best races on the lead. It was a good horse race; it turned out really well.”
Jose Lezcano, winning jockey aboard Laughing (No. 1): “I figured to be up there with the pace. I let her break, and go from there. I liked the trip. She jumped a little in the bit, but when I asked at the quarter pole, she took off. It was kind of the same trip as the Diana. She felt comfortable and I let her do whatever she wanted. She is a very nice filly.”
Chad Brown, trainer of runner-up Pianist (No. 2): “She runs so well fresh. She likes rock-hard ground. It was the perfect setup. We were just second-best today. Laughing is tough. This is three times in a row I have been second to her with three of my best fillies. These are three good fillies I have run against her and [Laughing] handled all three of them.”
Mike Smith, jockey aboard runner-up Pianist (No. 2): “The hard ground, she loves the hard ground. That's what I think. She tried so hard, the other mare just outgamed me, man. She's just tough. I thought I had her. I got a neck in front of her and she fought back. You have to take your hat off to her.”
Javier Castellano, jockey aboard beaten favorite and fourth-place finisher Hungry Island (No. 5): “The only way I got beat today was because the track is so fast. You don't see horses coming from behind. I think we just got beat because the horse that went to the lead never stopped, and my horse is a come-from-behind horse.”
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