Laki looking to make his point in $100,000 Challedon

July 29, 2021

Whereshetoldmetogo Among Rivals in Six-Furlong Sprint

BALTIMORE, Md. – The laundry list of accomplishments for Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki includes at least one stakes victory in each of the last years, seven overall topped by the 2020 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3), a pair of Maryland-bred championships and $825,162 in purse earnings from 35 career starts.

Laki has also captured the male dirt sprint division in each of the the two years since the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series was revived in 2018 and is poised to make it three straight. The 8-year-old gelding will take the next step in that direction in Saturday’s $100,000 Challedon at historic Pimlico Race Course.

The 35th running of the Challedon for 3-year-olds and up is one of three $100,000 stakes on a nine-race program, joined by the Alma North for fillies and mares 3 and up, also sprinting six furlongs, and Deputed Testamony for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles. The Alma North and Deputed Testamony are also MATCH Series races.

First race post time is 12:40 p.m.

Laki finished with the most points in the MATCH Series’ 3-year-old and up dirt sprint division in 2018 and 2019, earning five-figure bonuses for his connections, including trainer Damon Dilodovico. Through the first two of six scheduled events this year Laki ranks second with nine points, one behind May 15 Maryland Sprint (G3) winner Special Reserve and July 4 Lite the Fuse winner Yaupon.

“I have to borrow from [Hall of Fame NBA coach] Pat Riley and say we’re going for the three-peat,” Dilodovico said.

“I think it’s a big accomplishment, taking on stakes horses here and there up and down the coast. It’s a nice little series.

“My oldest was the one that was really pushing me to it the first year. I was looking for an easier route for him, and he was relentless with his thought process,” he added. “I think we stepped into that and just started getting points here and points there and just outlasted everybody, I guess.”

Laki, who began the year running third in the General George (G3) and extending his annual stakes win streak in the Frank Y. Whiteley, both at Laurel Park, finished fifth in the Maryland Sprint and was second in the Lite the Fuse under regular rider Horacio Karamanos. Yaupon, a multiple graded-stakes winner ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., won by 1 ¾ lengths.

“We got to the half-mile point and I thought to myself, Youpon didn’t look like he was comfortable in the race. Horacio was just kind of sitting back a little bit and told me he didn’t think [Yaupon] was going to fire so he didn’t want to try and go around him,” Dilodovico said. “He sat still and when he tried to make his move inside, he said he brushed him.

“He said Ricardo told him he thought his horse was empty until [Laki] came up inside of him. When they brushed, it re-engaged him. Unfortunately, we woke him up I guess,” he added. “At the half-mile pole I was thinking, ‘We’re going to win this race,’ and I never, ever say that. The winner is a super impressive animal.”

Laki worked four furlongs in 49.60 seconds July 22 at Pimlico for the Challedon, where he will once again have Karamanos in the irons from Post 4 in a field of six.

“He came out of the race pretty fresh. I did give him a little maintenance breeze last week, just a little something. He ran so good last time, I always battle back and forth with it but I just thought I’d do a little something. I feel like he’s had enough time from that to the race to fully recover,” Dilodovico said. “He’s an awesome 8-year-old. He’s had 35 starts, and I don’t feel like that’s a lot. I think that’s helped us keep him in the game this long.”

Madaket Stables, Ten Strike Racing, Michael Kisber and Black Cloud Racing Stable’s Whereshetoldmetogo is a familiar foe, having beaten Laki in the Whiteley and Dave’s Friend to cap 2020. The 6-year-old gelding had a three-stakes win streak snapped when ninth finishing last of nine after clipping heels in the April 24 Whiteley, but rebounded with an impressive four-length triumph in the six-furlong Alapocas Run July 3 at Delaware Park.

“That was a good effort. It was probably a good race to get him back started in. The only thing in the back of my mind is, he ran such a bad race at Pimlico two back, and that’s kind of when we freshened him up,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “He’s a big, tough horse that loves to race but he’s also a horse that is kind of a creature of habit and if something doesn’t go right for him, I do believe for him it’s an excuse. He’s training well at Pimlico so hopefully we can redeem ourselves.”

Whereshetoldmetogo is an eight-time stakes winner that has raced at 12 different racetracks with 11 victories from 27 lifetime starts. The Whitley was his only previous try at Pimlico, where he is based.

“He works good on the racetrack, he came back and ran well at Delaware. Hopefully he just gets a good trip and he can show what he’s got,” Russell said. “He’s run on so many different surfaces. In the back of your mind you’re saying, ‘Is it just not to his liking, the Pimlico track,’ but we don’t get that in the morning. We just need to move forward. He’s doing good so, hopefully, he shows up.”

Russell’s husband, jockey Sheldon Russell, rides Whereshetoldmetogo from Post 5.

Euro Stable’s multiple stakes winner Lebda seeks his first victory in 10 races in the Challedon. From the barn of Maryland’s leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez, the 4-year-old gelding lost to Laki by a half-length in the 2021 Whiteley after setting the pace, and exits an eighth-place finish in the Maryland Sprint after being scratched from the Lite the Fuse.

“It’s a tough race, but we have to try. He’s doing good. He had to scratch last time but I believe not having run, he’s fresh, and I believe he likes that. In the stall he’s jumping and happy. He wants to run now. He’s ready,” Gonzalez said. “He breezed really good last week and he came back good after the breeze. Every day since he shows me he’s fit for the race.”

J.D. Acosta has the call from the rail.

Also entered are Mucho, fourth in the Maryland Sprint and most recently second by a nose in the seven-furlong Kelly’s Landing June 2; Threes Over Deuces, fourth in the Alapocas and winner of the New Castle and second in the General George last year; and Lite the Fuse fourth-place finisher Whiskey and You. Mucho (three), Whiskey and You (three), Threes Over Deuces (one) and Lebda (one) also have points in the MATCH division standings.

Not run during Maryland’s pandemic-shortened 2020 stakes season, the Challedon honors the Maryland-bred son of Challenger II that won 20 of 44 starts and $334,660 in purses from 1938 to 1942, was recognized as Horse of the Year in 1939 and 1940, and inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1977. Winner of the 1939 Preakness and 1939-40 Pimlico Special, Challedon also sired 13 stakes winners before his death in 1958.

Maryland Jockey Club Press Release

Photo: Laki, (MJC)

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