Laurel-Based Trainer Goes Five-for-Five to Open Laurel’s Fall Meet
Maryland Racing Commission Approves Monday Racing in November
LAUREL, Md. – For a guy that spends racing afternoons working behind the scenes for the company that produces the Maryland Jockey Club’s simulcast broadcasts, trainer Damon Dilodovico spent an awful lot of time during opening weekend of Laurel Park’s fall meet in front of the camera.
Dilodovico sent out five starters over the first three days of the calendar year-ending 48-day stand, and all of them came back winners. Five horses, five wins, five television appearances both from the winner’s circle and on the walk along the apron from his perch in the paddock.
“I like to get my exercise in,” Dilodovico said. “It’s a much better place to be, that’s for sure.”
Assisted by wife Christine and son Nick, Dilodovico has actually won with six consecutive starters, going back to R B’s Star Sept. 25 on closing day of historic Pimlico Race Course’s boutique fall meet.
“I was telling my son, I’m waiting for Christine to come wake me up,” he said. “Not too long ago we had won four or five in a row, which was followed by a horrendous losing streak. You have a great weekend like this and you spend the next three days up at night hoping that the bottom doesn’t fall out.”
Dilodovico began Laurel’s fall meet with 6-year-old Maryland-bred gelding Up Against It, who stumbled at the start but rallied for a two-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile claiming event for 3-year-olds and up, his only starter on the Sept. 30 opening day program.
The following day Dilodovico again had one starter, Armando R, in the $100,000 Japan Turf Cup. Entered for main track only, the 6-year-old Blame gelding drew into the field when the race was rained off the grass by the remnants of Hurricane Ian and shortened from 1 ½ to 1 ¼ miles. Looking for a combination of pace and distance Dilodovico took a chance and Armando R made it count, closing determinedly on the outside through the stretch to win by a neck.
“I feel like we were kind of lucky that the race held together. I was worried that we’d get a bunch of scratches and there’d be a paceless race,” he said. “What a pleasant surprise he’s been. He was a $16,000 claim and he’s just as honest as the day is long. The first race for us I thought we were in trouble. He didn’t run a step, but we learned a lot about him and since then he’s been very strong.”
As an encore, Dilodovico proceeded to go 3-for-3 on Sunday. Sponsored, a gelded 4-year-old son of champion Runhappy, captured a six-furlong claiming sprint by 2 ¾ lengths, his second win in three starts. The trainer then swept the late double with 3-year-old filly Noble Bid, by champion Bernardini, in the featured second-level optional claiming allowance for females 3 and up, and 3-year-old gelding Gerrys Gem in the nightcap, another six-furlong claimer.
Armando R, Sponsored and Noble Bid were all piloted by Horacio Karamanos, Dilodovico’s go-to rider. Five-pound apprentice Jeiron Barbosa, already a two-time meet champion in Maryland this year, rode the other winners. All five came for different owners.
“It’s been hard for me to get three horses in on the same day of late, and to have three of them find just the right spot – it’s a whole different level of being lucky,” Dilodovico said. “I was thinking that was the first time I won three in the same day, but my wife thought I had done that early in our career.”
The success is a just reward for the humble and hard-working Dilodovico, who went out on his own in 1990 and 10 years later – with a small stable and a growing family – began working afternoons for International Sound. His son, Damon Jr., also works for the company in the production trailer.
“Obviously without the support of my employees and my family, that couldn’t happen,” Dilodovico said. “When we were just kind of starting off, I had no benefits. At that time we were only talking about training eight to 10 horses, maybe. Now with a few more horses, I depend on them a whole lot more.”
His current Laurel string numbering 37 horses, Dilodovico has already surpassed his single-season high with more than $1.3 million in purse earnings and is 10 away from breaking his personal mark of 46 wins set in 2009. He won his 800thcareer race with maiden claimer Aesthetically Sept. 23 at historic Pimlico Race Course.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “We’ve had a dry spell or two, but our owners have been very patient with us.”
In April, Dilodovico retired the best horse he has ever trained, Laki, a six-time stakes winner of more than $833,000 in purses including the 2020 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash – the lone graded triumph for both trainer and horse. Promising 3-year-old Super Saver colt Super Love began his career this year with three straight wins before finishing fifth in the July 30 Star de Naskra at Laurel and an Aug. 23 allowance at Parx.
“Super love was off to a great start. He kind of had an intimidating trip in the stake, but did come out of the race well,” Dilodovico said. “He ended up hurting himself up at Parx. We had Dr. Hogan clean him up and hopefully we can get him back at it soon. That guy, he’s just a beautiful, powerful-looking horse. He’s something to see.”
Dilodovico has one chance to extend the streak to seven when live racing returns to Laurel Thursday. His 3-year-old Keen Ice filly Lunar Ice is the 5-1 third choice on the morning line in an overflow field of 12 for Race 3, a maiden claimer for fillies and mares age 3, 4 and 5 scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the Bowl Game turf course.
“She’s training well. On the turf, I think we’re in the game,” he said. “Certainly there’s a couple horses with some ability. She seems like she’s woken up for us on the turf.”
Thursday’s nine-race program opens with a maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies scheduled for 5 ½ furlongs on the Exceller turf course, which drew an overflow field of 16 including Mo Martha for main track only. Pharoahs Baby Gyal, a second-time starter for trainer Brittany Russell that ran second in debut Sept. 11 at Pimlico in an off-the-turf maiden special weight, is the narrow 4-1 program favorite.
Rustys Gfivefifty, exiting a neck allowance triumph Sept. 25 at Pimlico in his first start for trainer Rudy Sanchez-Salomon, makes his return in Race 4, a 1 1/16-mile allowance for Maryland-bred/sired 3-year-olds and up. Race 7 is a one-mile allowance for fillies and mares 3 and up scheduled for one mile on the Bowl Game turf course where Full Count Felicia, sixth last out in the Virginia Derby (G3), is favored at 2-1 on grass. Acadian Girl, entered for main track only, has won three straight races by 16 ¼ combined lengths.
The co-feature comes in Race 8, an entry-level allowance for fillies and mares 3 and up going one mile. Charming Way, third or better in six of eight starts this year, looks to bounce back after finishing a distant fourth in an off-the-turf allowance Sept. 11 at Pimlico.
Maryland Racing Commission Approves Monday Racing in November
The Maryland Racing Commission, at its monthly meeting Oct. 4, formally approved Monday racing at Laurel Park in November.
Laurel’s 48-day calendar year-ending fall meet began Sept. 30 and runs through Dec. 31. Racing will be conducted four days a week, primarily Thursday-Sunday in October and Friday-Monday in November, and three days a week (Friday-Sunday) in December.
Monday racing will be conducted Nov. 7, 14 and 21. There will be no live racing Nov. 28 following a four-day schedule that begins with Laurel’s traditional Thanksgiving Day program Thursday, Nov. 24.
Laurel will be dark Dec. 24 and 25 and host a special Christmastide Day program of six stakes Monday, Dec. 26.
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
Photo by Maryland Jockey Club