Alex and JoAnn Lieblong's Laughing Fox, coming off a fourth-place finish in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 13, rebounded off that race to post his first career stakes victory in Saturday's inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational at Oaklawn. The win earned the Union Rags colt an automatic berth to the May 18 Preakness Stakes (G1) where he will meet Arkansas Derby third-place finisher Country House, who won the Kentucky Derby via disqualification, among others.
Laughing Fox, with Ramon Vazquez in the irons, raced near the back of the field as Proverb took control through fractions of :22 4/5 and :46 4/5 for the first half mile. The winner came four wide into the stretch after being as far back as ninth of 11 and grinded out the win by a neck over Night Ops, who had stalked the pace throughout. Proverb held on for third. The final time was 1:49 3/5 for 1 1/8 miles on a fast track.
“He's a nice horse,” Vazquez said. “When I asked him, he gave me everything. I had a lot of horse before the quarter pole. He's a nice horse and was working well in the morning.”
Laughing Fox broke his maiden opening day of the 2019 live season and won an allowance race Feb. 18. He had finished sixth in the second division of the Rebel Stakes prior to his start in the Arkansas Derby.
“He held his weight so good,” Alex Lieblong said. “I sent Steve (Asmussen) and Darren (Fleming) both a text, I guess it was Thursday. I said, 'Look guys, if the horse is holding his weight, fine, but if it looks like he's tired any at all, let's don't go. Don't go for my sake.' And Steve gave the answer back, 'Hey, I'm leaving that to you and Darren.' I said, 'OK, thanks.' I came over and watched him and, if anything, I think he put on weight since the (Arkansas) Derby. So, we'll just have to see how he does come bouncing out of it. But he's a stout horse. The Preakness really had nothing to do with it (running). Nothing. Purse wasn't bad – don't get me wrong. He fit and he was doing well. The horses that he ran behind in the Arkansas Derby I thought were very legitimate horses in the Arkansas Derby.”
Saturday was closing day of the 2019 live racing season. The 2020 season will begin January 24, 2020.
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