Sprinter Gives Trainer Dilodovico First Career Graded Win
BALTIMORE, Md. – Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki, winner of at least one stakes each of the past four years, added a graded triumph to his resume by getting his nose down on the wire in a three-way photo finish Saturday in the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) at Pimlico Race Course.
The 29th running of the six-furlong De Francis for 3-year-olds and up was part of an all-stakes Preakness Day program featuring the 145th renewal of the $1 million Preakness (G1), contested this year as the final jewel in a refashioned Triple Crown, and the 96th edition of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2), one of the country’s premiere events for 3-year-old fillies.
In earning his first graded-stakes triumph from five tries, Laki ($16.40) gave trainer Damon Dilodovico his first career graded win and second in the De Francis following Immortal Eyes in 2013, when the race was ungraded.
Dilodovico exclaimed, “It was unbelievably exciting. Everyone was hollering like it was a full house, like a May Preakness. It means the world to me..
“The owner gives him a lot of time. When we want to give him time, the owner [Hillside Equestrian Meadows] takes him home, takes good care of him and sends him back to us in good shape.”
This year marked only the third time the De Francis has been run at Pimlico, where it debuted in 1990 and returned in 2004. Laki, making his 28th lifetime start, had been winless in his only two tries over the surface, respectively running fifth and sixth in the 2017 and 2018 Maryland Sprint (G3) on the Preakness undercard.
Runner-up in the 2019 De Francis, contested last fall at Laurel Park, where Laki and Dilodovico are based, Laki was content to settle off the pace as 17-1 long shot Krsto Skye sprinted to the lead and held it through a quarter-mile in 22.96 seconds and a half in 45.03. Landeskog, the 4-5 favorite, gave closest chase but was edged to third by Nitrous as Laki, kept in the clear, began to roll down the center of the track.
Laki and Nitrous drove for the wire together as Eastern Bay, who beat Laki in the Polynesian Stakes Sept. 5 at Laurel, came with a huge run on the far outside. The three horses came to the wire together but it was Laki who got there first in 1:09.70 over the fast main track. Eastern Bay edged Nitrous by a nose for second, and it was 1 ¼ lengths back to Krsto Skye in fourth.
“He broke slow. I wanted to be forwardly placed, so I had to ride him almost all the way. He came with a big run and almost caught the winner. I thought I may have got up at the end, but that’s horse racing,” Cruz said.
Karamanos won the De Francis for a third time, having also finished first with Action Andy in 2012 and Chublicious in 2017. Earlier Saturday, Karamanos won the $100,000 Hilltop aboard Evil Lyn.
“Unbelievable. This is the stable horse. I’m so happy for everybody. Laki, I really love this horse. I really love the trainer, the family. Everybody works together. I’m so happy to win for them because they support me all year round, winning many races. I’m so happy, especially for Damon. He’s a good guy and a good trainer,” Karamanos excitedly stated.
“It was an amazing finish. My horse broke good out of the gate, the speed went fast. He didn’t want to go, but when I whipped him a couple of times he started responding in the middle of the turn. He was a little shy on the inside and I made the decision to go wide a little bit. It was a beautiful race. He fired today.”
Named for the late president and chairman of both Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, and not run in 2008 or 2010, the De Francis’ illustrious roster of past winners includes Hall of Famer Housebuster, fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Benny the Bull, and Lite the Fuse, the race’s only two-time winner (1995-96).
Photo: Laki. Credit: Maryland Jockey Club