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Multiple Stakes Winner Laki Returns to Laurel in Saturday Feature
G3-Placed Gelding Looks to Continue Streak for Red-Hot Connections
Amen Corner, Bull Shark, Eastern Bay Claim Friday Features
LAUREL, MD –Trainer Damon Dilodovico is counting on his stable star continuing his momentum when multiple stakes winner Laki races for the first time as a 7-year-old over his home track in Saturday’s stakes-quality feature at Laurel Park.
Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Maryland-bred Laki opened his season with a 2 ½-length triumph in the five-furlong Oceanport Centennial Stakes July 4 at Monmouth Park, his first race since a fifth-place finish in the Maryland Million Sprint last October.
It was the fifth career stakes victory for Laki and first away from Laurel Park, and helped Dilodivico kick off a hot streak that saw him win six of 13 starts with four thirds following a 1-for-27 stretch to open the summer meet, which began May 30 following a 2 ½-month pause in live racing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s not like they were all running dud races. Everybody’s horses were fresh and it was just really tough racing to start the meet. It’s hard not to question everything you do. The horses were all doing good; it’s just a tough game,” Dilodovico said. “Then, we started to get a few breaks. I don’t think that we did anything different. It’s not like I felt they were short going into those races; they just weren’t winning.
“Running up against a group of sharp, fresh horses I think was the reason for the slump. A lot of them were running good and equaling lifetime performances and getting beat. That’s how this game is,” he added. “Now you get on a bit of a roll, and you just keep your hands and feet inside the cart because you don’t want to slow it down. We hope to keep it going.”
Laki will break from Post 2 in Saturday’s Race 8, an open allowance for 3-year-olds and up sprinting seven furlongs on the main track. He is reunited with regular rider Horacio Karamanos after Maryland champion Trevor McCarthy, spending the summer at Monmouth, got the call last out.
“He was definitely primed for that weekend, and got just an awesome ride from Trevor stepping in for Horacio that day. He got him away clean and was able to let him settle. There were guys duking it out up front a little bit and he was ready for the stretch run,” Dilodovico said. “I normally don’t like running him back this quick but he came out of that race awesome.”
Laki has been worse than third just once in 15 career ties at Laurel, eight of them wins, including the 2019 Frank Whitley Jr., 2018 Howard & Sondra Bender Memorial and Polynesian and 2017 Not For Love. He also finished second in the 2018 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) and 2019 General George (G3), the latter at Saturday’s distance.
“He is an awesome, awesome horse. He doesn’t do any stupid things to get himself into any silly trouble. He is just the ultimate professional,” Dilodovico said. “He takes care of himself on the track. Coming off the track after training, if he sees a little extra activity from some of the other horses he might get a little uppity, but you would love him. He’s a cool cat, I’m telling you.”
Proven at six furlongs with a 3-1-1-1 record at seven-eighths, Laki will be up against several similarly seasoned rivals including multiple stakes winners Cordmaker, Clubman and No Dozing, stakes winner Arthur’s Hope and recent Laurel allowance winner Threes Over Deuces. Laki bested seven others, including favored Awesome Anywhere from Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, in his season opener.
“Is that a solid race or what? You could argue it’s tougher than the Monmouth race, with the exception of the Hollendorfer horse, on paper,” Dilodovico said. “He’s coming back a little bit quick and going seven furlongs so that’ll make me nervous, but he always shows up. He’ll give us a good effort and we’ll see how it goes.”
Hillwood Stable’s Cordmaker is a four-time stakes winner, three at Laurel, and was second by two necks in the historic Pimlico Special (G3) last May at Pimlico Race Course. He won two straight to end 2019, returning to open his 5-year-old season in a one-mile allowance July 3 at Laurel, where he contested the pace for six furlongs before tiring to fifth. He drew Post 4 with new rider Feargal Lynch.
“He had heat exhaustion in that race. He ran real hard and he tried, but it was just awful hot that day,” trainer Rodney Jenkins said, “but he’s doing real good. He’s a nice horse. There’s some runners in there but I’m expecting him to run good.”
Lael Stables’ homebred No Dozing, 6, captured the 2017 Concern Stakes going seven furlongs at Laurel and has not won in nine consecutive starts since taking the Bold Ruler (G3) at Aqueduct in his 2018 finale. Arthur’s Hope owns 12 career wins including Aqueduct’s Say Florida Sandy in January, but is winless in his only two previous tries at Laurel.
Pocket 3s Racing’s Threes Over Deuces, racing for the first time since finishing second to Grade 1-winning millionaire Firenze Fire in the Feb. 15 General George, was a gutsy six-furlong allowance winner July 4 by a head over Onemoregreattime, who also returns Saturday. Caonabo Stable’s Clubman is a 10-time winner, twice in stakes, whose recent losses have come against the likes of Someday Jones, Alwaysmining, Lewisfield and Cordmaker.
Factor It In, sixth in the General George, completes the field.
Amen Corner, Bull Shark, Eastern Bay Claim Friday Features
Howling Pigeon Farms’ Amen Corner split horses at the top of the stretch after saving ground early and held off Nick Papagiorgio through the lane to win the first of three featured allowance events on Friday’s nine-race card.
Ridden by Julian Pimentel for trainer Jerry O’Dwyer, Amen Corner ($14.40) ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.68 over a fast main track after overnight rains moved entry-level allowance for 3-year-olds and up off Laurel’s world-class turf course.
Tom Hagen was on the lead through a quarter-mile in 25 seconds and a half in 49.10 chased by Nick Papagiorgio, favored at 6-5 to extend his win streak to four races. Amen Corner settled in along the rail in third with Hayne’s Fever to his outside in fourth.
The top trio edged away from the pack once straightened from home, when Pimentel tipped outside to take a run at Tom Hagen as Nick Papagiorgio came with a run on the far outside, but Amen Corner was able to get his nose down on the wire with Tom Hagen checking in third.
Jody Mahalic’s Bull Shark ($4), favored at even money in his first start in 382 days, swept to the lead on the far outside in mid-stretch and pulled clear in Race 8, an entry-level allowance for 3-year-olds and up. The winning time was 1:10.36 for six furlongs. A 4-year-old Maryland-bred son of Bandbox, Bull Shark is now 3-0 lifetime, having won a maiden claimer and allowance last summer.
Robert D. Bone’s Eastern Bay ($3.40) won for the second straight time since being claimed by summer meet-leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez, sprinting to a popular front-running victory in Race 9, a second-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up. Eastern Bay ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03.06 for his ninth career win.
Notes: Jockey Feargal Lynch took off his remaining mounts and was brought to the hospital unable to catch his breath after being unseated when 3-year-old colt Epitomize fell during the running of Thursday’s third race. Graham Motion-trained Epitomize, initially reluctant to load in the starting gate, was unhurt …
Trainer Jerry O’Dwyer and jockey Julian Pimentel teamed up for a pair of wins Thursday with Amen Corner ($14.40) in Race 3 and Robber Bob ($5.20) in Race 6. … Summer meet-leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez won twice, with Lucky Ramsey ($7.40) in Race 7 and Eastern Bay ($3.40) in Race 9. Trainer Cal Lynch also sent out two winners, Belfour ($4.40) in Race 6 and Bull Shark ($4) in Race 8 … There will be jackpot carryover of $1,189.67 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 for Friday’s nine-race card, which begins at 12:40 p.m. Multiple tickets with all six winners Thursday each returned $34.30.