Hillside Equestrian Meadows' Laki, having run against and beaten some of the region's top sprinters this year, will have the benefit of home track advantage over fellow multiple stakes-winning shippers Altissimo and Cautious Giant in Saturday's $100,000 Dave's Friend at Laurel Park in Maryland.
The six-furlong Dave's Friend for 3-year-olds and up is among six stakes worth $550,000 in purses on a 10-race Christmastide Day program that highlights the final weekend of the calendar year-ending 2018 fall meet.
Also on the card are the $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go for fillies and mares 3 and up, also at a mile, and a pair of seven-furlong juvenile sprints – the $100,000 Heft for 2-year-olds and $100,000 Gin Talking for 2-year-old fillies.
First race post time is noon.
Laki, trained by Damon Dilodovico, ended an 11-week break between races with a sharp half-length victory in the six-furlong Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial Stakes Dec. 8 at Laurel. The leading older sprinter in this year's rejuvenated Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series, Laki hadn't run since finishing second to multiple graded-stakes winner Switzerland in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Sept. 22.
“I was expecting a big effort. I think the time away was really helpful. All through the MATCH series I was kind of bellyaching about not being able to find him any rest and then when he finally got it and came back he took care of business and I was real happy with that,” Dilodovico said. “He came out of the race great. He had a nice little maintenance breeze the other day and is doing good. He's had a great year.”
All seven of Laki's wins have come in 11 career starts over Laurel's main track, with three seconds. Regular rider Horacio Karamanos will be aboard from Post 5 of seven at 120 pounds.
Together, Altissimo and Cautious Giant have made 74 starts at 12 different racetracks from coast to coast, with 22 wins, seven stakes wins and more than $1 million in purse earnings, but neither has raced at Laurel. Ohio-bred Altissimo has run primarily in his backyard, with five stakes wins since late April among his 13 overall victories – 11 since joining trainer Richard Zielinski last fall.
“I'd like to say that I performed some sort of miracle, but I think things just clicked. I got him just about a year ago, and he's kind of improved with every start and he's made,” Zielinski said. “I've run him long, I've run him short and he just seems to enjoy his job. I have a groom that is very attentive toward him and it's just kind of paid off, I think. He's doing real good right now.”
Moshe Mark's Cautious Giant has earned $581,790 from 42 career starts, nine of them wins, having been based in South Florida since last fall. He has won two stakes, most recently in the six-furlong Trinniberg Sept. 8 at Gulfstream Park and was third in a pair of Grade 2 stakes in 2016 while on the southern California circuit.
“Gulfstream is the toughest meet in the country this time of the year. Moshe moves his horses around a lot and he's always looking for the best spot, so to pull him out of Gulfstream for the winter is probably a smart move,” trainer Kieron Magee said. “He's a nice, nice horse. He's a cool horse. He doesn't get too excited and he's very talented. Of course, his race record speaks for itself. Hopefully we can win a race or two with him.”
Christian Pilares, Altissimo's regular pilot, is named from Post 2 at co-topweight of 122 pounds, while Laurel meet-leading rider Trevor McCarthy has the call on Cautious Giant from Post 3 at 120 pounds.
Laki's stablemate Team Tim; Midtowncharlybrown, front-running winner of the Fabulous Strike Stakes last out Nov. 21 at Penn National; Colonel Sharp and Perfect Cover are also entered.
Full Field of 14 to Line Up for $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go
John Servis-trained stakes-placed stablemates Miss Avalon and Modacious, seeking their first career stakes victories, are among a full field of 14 fillies and mares set to gather for the $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go.
Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning Servis decided to skip the Thirty Eight Go Go and instead target the $100,000 What a Summer Stakes Jan. 19 at Laurel with 2018 Barbara Fritchie (G2) winner Ms Locust Point, but has both Miss Avalon and Modacious entered coming off victories.
S.M.D. Ltd's Miss Avalon beat fellow Pennsylvania-breds by 3 ¼ lengths in a one-mile, 70-yard allowance Nov. 12 at Parx, two starts after running third in the Mrs. Penny Stakes. This will be her shortest race since finishing third going six furlongs June 9, also at Parx.
Cash is King and LC Racing's Modacious exits a one-length optional claiming allowance triumph as the favorite going one mile Dec. 11 at Parx. It was her second straight time going at least eight furlongs after opening 2018 with three consecutive sprints.
“Miss Avalon is coming off the big win last time. The race is a little short for her, but she's doing great,” Servis said. “Modacious, too, is doing real well. She's in the January sale so we'd like to see her go out on a winning note. Where Modacious will be a lot closer to the pace, Miss Avalon will get outrun early but she'll be running late.”
Diamond M Stable and Roll the Dice Thoroughbreds' Lady Vicki takes a four-race win streak into what will be her stakes debut for trainer Lacey Gaudet. Acquired privately after a dominant maiden claiming win July 27 at Saratoga, the 3-year-old Boys at Tosconova filly won a pair of starter optional sprints and earned a gutsy nose triumph when stepped up and stretched out to a mile in an open entry-level allowance Dec. 9 at Laurel.
“She's been a really, really nice filly for us. My only concern is it's a little quick back off what I think was the gamest race of her career so far, but we want to get some black type on her,” Gaudet said. “She's definitely a filly that likes her own way but she's been fantastic to have around. She takes everything you throw at her. We wanted to test her last time going the mile and she excelled. She's a tough filly.”
Bred, owned and trained by Bernie Houghton, Trace of Grace is seeking her first win of the year in the Thirty Eight Go Go. She has one second and three thirds from six 2018 starts, most recently rallying to be fourth, beaten just a half-length, in a third-level optional claiming allowance going seven furlongs Nov. 29 at Laurel.
“She ran so good in the allowance race the other day,” Houghton said. “She might be a little over her head in that spot but we changed her style of running last time. She came from dead last which she had never done and she was flying up the lane going seven-eighths so I'm thinking the mile is going to help her out.”
Total Control, Forever Liesl, Sower, Timeless Curls, Lake Ponchatrain, Isotope, Dorodansa, Squan's Kingdom, Mo Knows and Enthrall complete the field.
Alwaysmining Looks to Strike Gold Again in $100,000 Heft
Runnymede Racing's Alwaysmining, impressive front-running winner of his last two starts, wheels back in three weeks seeking his second consecutive stakes victory in the $100,000 Heft.
A gelded son of multiple Grade 1 winner Stay Thirsty, Alwaysmining defeated stakes winners Our Braintrust and Scrap Copper in the seven-furlong Maryland Juvenile Futurity Dec. 8 at Laurel. He cruised by 10 lengths over a sloppy, sealed track in his previous start, an entry-level optional claiming allowance Oct. 27.
“He came out of the last race very happy, so we thought we'd just turn right around and try again. There's no pressure, we don't have to run in this race, we kind of left it up to him. He certainly came out of that last race in great form, so we'll take a shot,” Rubley said. “I think it's just worked out that he was on the lead the last couple of races. I don't know that he necessarily has to have the lead, but if he inherits it then it seems to be working for him.”
Aboard for each of the past two wins, Daniel Centeno returns to ride from Post 1. All seven horses will carry 120 pounds.
Win Win Win and Press Virginia, both undefeated through two starts, will make their stakes debuts in the Heft. Live Oak Plantation homebred Win Win Win, trained by Mike Trombetta, broke his maiden at first asking Nov. 8 in an off-the-turf 5 ½-furlong sprint, then came back to win going the same distance by 6 ½ lengths Dec. 7.
D.J. Stable's Press Virginia also got started late, capturing his debut by 1 ½ lengths going six furlongs Nov. 21 at Penn National before taking an open, seven-furlong entry-level allowance 20 days later at Parx by 3 ¼ lengths. Where Win Win Win has raced exclusively at Laurel, Press Virginia will be trying its main track for the first time.
“He's a West Virginia-bred, but he's a nice horse. He's got some talent. He got started late and we had a couple other horses that we really liked a lot that I didn't want to run them against each other,” trainer John Servis said. “He ran a big race to break his maiden and the second, third and fourth horses in that race all came back and won their next start. He came right back and won the allowance race impressively. He got off a little bad the and kind of struggled getting back on his feet and I think he used himself pretty early to get up close and didn't finish quite as strong as I would have liked. He was blowing pretty good after the race. I think that race will help him a lot.”
Completing the field are Order and Law, who beat Alwaysmining while winning the Laurel Futurity on turf Sept. 22; recent maiden winners Clench and Zulu Legend and Be Lal, a winner of two straight at Penn National.
No Mo Lady Seeks Stakes Breakthrough $100,000 Gin Talking
Larry Johnson and R.D.M. Racing Stable's No Mo Lady, narrowly beaten in her stakes debut earlier this month, returns looking to reverse that finish in the $100,000 Gin Talking.
A juvenile daughter of champion Uncle Mo, No Mo Lady has alternated finishing first and second through her first four starts for trainer Mike Trombetta, rallying from 17 lengths back after a half-mile to come up a neck short as the favorite in the seven-furlong Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Dec. 8.
Trombetta also entered Commonwealth New Era Racing's Enjay's Brass, just 15 days following her 4 ¼-length optional claiming allowance win going 5 ½ furlongs Dec. 14. The effort was her first since finishing fifth in the one-mile Tempted (G3) Nov. 2 at Aqueduct.
Multiple stakes-placed Belial will take another shot at No Mo Lady in the Gin Talking. The daughter of Tritap was third in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship, a length behind the runner-up, and was second to My Star Potential in the Maryland Million Lassie Oct. 20 in her other stakes attempt.
Jagger Inc.'s Our Super Freak will be making her first start since running second at odds of 16-1 in the six-furlong Smart Halo Stakes Nov. 10 at Laurel. The Mineshaft filly won her two previous starts, including a 6 ¼-length optional claiming allowance triumph Oct. 27 at Laurel.
Loooch Racing Stables' Destiny Over Fate will be making her stakes debut in the Gin Talking. An impressive debut winner June 13 going five furlongs, she never fired over a sloppy, sealed track when returning to action Oct. 27 against Our Super Freak, but bounced back with a gutsy performance to be third by a neck to Belial in an optional claiming allowance Nov. 17.
“She won her maiden impressively and then I took her to Saratoga and hoped to run her up there and she bucked her shins. We gave her some time and then her first race back was in the one-hole and in the slop and we just threw it out,” trainer Lacey Gaudet said. “She just got beat in the allowance race going seven-eighths and she came out of the race really, really well. I like the distance and, hopefully, it's going to key her up for a nice 3-year-old campaign.
“It was a gutsy performance last time. I thought she was going to get there. She really needed it. She needed to stretch out, and she didn't get anything out of her first race off the layoff so that put her in a really good spot,” she added. “She's still green. The first race when she won she bolted and blew a lot of ground, so she's still really just getting into herself and realizing what to do. It's also a learning experience but I think she'll be competitive in there.”
Also entered are Kaylasaurus, Getouttamyway, Ujjayi, Please Flatter Me and Getting Warmer.
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