LAUREL, Md. – Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki, unraced since finishing sixth in defense of last fall’s Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) victory, is set to return for his 39th career start in the $100,000 Dave’s Friend Dec. 26 at Laurel Park.
The 18th running of the Dave’s Friend for 3-year-olds and up and 11th renewal of the Willa On the Move for fillies and mares 3 and up, both sprinting six furlongs, are among six $100,000 stakes on a nine-race Christmastide Day program.
In addition to the Dave’s Friend and Willa On the Move, the Robert T. Manfuso for 3-year-olds and up at about 1 1/16 miles and the 1 1/8-mile Carousel for fillies and mares 3 and older close out the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series in their respective divisions.
Laki broke outwardly and was never able to get into contention in the six-furlong De Francis Sept. 18 at Laurel, winding up well behind first-place finisher Wondrwherecraigis, who would be disqualified to second for interference but go on to win the Bold Ruler (G3) in his subsequent start.
The 8-year-old Cuba gelding was given plenty of time to recover by trainer Damon Dilodovico, not returning to the work tab until Nov. 21. His last two breezes have come since Laurel’s main track underwent renovations in early December.
“I’m glad we were able to get a second breeze on the new surface. I think that will help,” Dilodovico said. “Maybe that will work out as an advantage for those of us that are stabled here.
“He seems ready. We gave him a little break after the Dash, which he always seems to come back well from. We’re pretty happy with where he is right now,” he added. “He earned the time off. He’s a warrior.”
Laki is 11-for-38 lifetime, including 19-for-24 in the top three at Laurel, with $833,162 in purse earnings. He has won at least one stakes race five straight years, a streak he extended in the Frank Y. Whiteley going six furlongs April 24 at historic Pimlico Race Course. He also leads MATCH dirt sprinters with 21 points will clinch a third straight division title following 2018 and 2019. The Series was shelved in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We may race him next year but I think we’ll decide after this. We do plan on giving him another real winter break after this race and we’ll see how he is afterward,” Dilodovico said. “[Owner Paul ‘Buck’] Kalinowski will hopefully have a spot and can take him back home. He’s rehabbed very well at his farm up in Connecticut.
“He’s done a good job with him. Hopefully he can take him up there and keep an eye on him and send us back a fresh old man,” he added. “That said, we won’t [push] him. He’s done his job. If he decides he wants to stop, we’ll stop. But we are going into the season with at least the thought that we’ll bring him back.”
Regular rider Horacio Karamanos has the call on Laki from the rail in a field of eight.
Sharing topweight of 124 pounds with Laki is Madaket Stables, Ten Strike Racing, Michael Kisber and BTR Racing, Inc.’s Whereshetoldmetogo, a fellow multiple stakes winner that enters the Dave’s Friend on a two-race win streak. Both victories, in the six-furlong New Castle Sept. 25 at Delaware Park and seven-furlong Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial against fellow Maryland-bred/sired horses Nov. 26 at Laurel, came by a neck.
“The last time he was kind of forced to go wide, and it’s nice to kind of see him overcome some things, regardless of what the outcome is,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “In terms of how he gets the job done, he just gets it done. I think that’s the main thing. He still wants to do it. He likes racing.”
A 6-year-old El Padrino gelding, Whereshetoldmetogo has won 13 of 31 career starts with $744,791 in purse earnings, and has six wins in eight tries at Laurel. Other wins this year have come in the Not For Love at Laurel and Alapocas Run at Delaware, also finishing third in the Challedon at Pimlico.
“He’s great. We always thought he was doing well when he was over at Pimlico, but he’s a different horse over at Laurel when he trains. He’s just happier,” Russell said. “Something about it, I don’t know, back in the barn, just how he is on the racetrack and everything. Obviously, he shows he loves it in the afternoon. We’re happy that [this] one is at Laurel and he’s at home.”
Jevian Toledo, Maryland’s leading rider at both the fall meet and overall for 2021, will be aboard for the third straight race from Post 4.
The Dave’s Friend also attracted Karan’s Notion and Air Token, respective upset winners of the 2020 and 2021 Maryland Million Sprint. Bred, owned and trained by Nancy Heil, Karan’s Notion is winless in eight starts this year including a runner-up finish to Whereshetoldmetogo in the Not For Love.
Air Token won the Oct. 23 Sprint by 2 ¼ lengths for owner-trainer Jose Corrales, then came back with a gutsy effort between Whereshetoldmetogo and Youngest of Five in the stretch to finish third by a neck in the Bender.
“Racing is a competition and you need a little bit of luck. The horse ran a big race and came back good and that’s how you take it in this business. You’re not always going to win,” Corrales said. “He’s a horse that just keeps improving. He’s a very consistent horse. He’s a very nice horse and I’m happy to have him. He’s a pleasure to have. He’s got a great personality.”
Threes Over Deuces, promoted winner of last year’s New Castle who ran third by a neck this fall; multiple West Virginia-bred stakes winner Penguin Power; Youngest of Five and Newbomb complete the field.
Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Photo: Laki (Maryland Jockey Club)