Chad Brown can’t make the Laughing stop.
The Mechanicville native has a deep stable of turf fillies and mares, but every one he has thrown at Laughing this summer has lost, most recently Pianist in a game effort that just wasn’t quite good enough.
Laughing, a 5-year-old Dansili mare owned by Richard Santulli, took the lead out of the gate from the rail with Pianist one stall over, and was able to keep her at bay all the way around the track to win the Grade II Ballston Spa by a neck at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
“She’s pretty tough,” trainer Alan Goldberg said. “I actually thought she would [do it]. The other filly hung in there pretty good. Looking at her form, it looked like [Pianist] wanted to have the lead. She’d run her best races on the lead. It was a good horse race; it turned out really well.”
“Tough” was echoed by Brown, and he ought to know.
Laughing knocked off Dayatthespa by three-quarters of a length in the Grade III Eatontown at Monmouth Park on June 29.
Then it was Deam Peace’s turn, and she had to settle for second place in the Grade I Diana at Saratoga for the second year in a row, this time by a head to Laughing on July 27.
Brown also saddled fourth-place Samitar in that race.
“Laughing is tough,” he said. “This is three times in a row I have been second to her with three of my best fillies. These are three good fillies I have run against her, and she handled all three of them.”
It hasn’t been easy, though.
Laughing used a stalking trip to win the Eatontown and won the Diana, which was a sixteenth of a mile longer than the Ballston Spa, on the front end.
Ridden by Jose Lezcano in the Ballston Spa, Laughing broke alertly and took the lead right away, so Lezcano let her stay there, with Pianist and Mike Smith shadowing her all the way.
On a very firm inner turf course that hadn’t seen rain for days, Laughing covered the first quarter-mile in 23.89, the half in 48.41 and six furlongs in 1:12.39.
Pianist never went away.
Content to stay a length behind and outside Laughing down the backstretch, Smith asked for some acceleration as they got into the turn, and Pianist drew even until they got to the top of the stretch.
Pianist was able to stretch a neck in front temporarily, but Laughing wouldn’t go away, either.
She maintained a slim lead and won with Pianist in lockstep right next to her.
“I figured to be up there with the pace,” Lezcano said. “I let her break, and go from there. I liked the trip. She jumped a little in the bit, but when I asked at the quarter pole, she took off. It was kind of the same trip as the Diana. She felt comfortable, and I let her do whatever she wanted. She is a very nice filly.”
“The hard ground, she loves the hard ground,” Smith said of Pianist. “That’s what I think. She tried so hard, the other mare just outgamed me, man. She’s just tough. I thought I had her. I got a neck in front of her and she fought back. You have to take your hat off to her.”
“She runs so well fresh. She likes rock-hard ground. It was the perfect setup. We were just second best today. “
Hungry Island, ridden by Javier Castellano, went off as a slight favorite over Laughing at 5-2, but couldn’t catch up to the leaders on the hard turf and settled for fourth.
“The only way I got beat today was because the track is so fast,” Castellano said. “You don’t see horses coming from behind. I think we just got beat because the horse that went to the lead never stopped, and my horse is a come-from-behind horse.”
In a deep, wide-open category, Laughing suddenly has emerged as one of the leaders.
“She ran well, and hopefully, she’ll come back well,” Goldberg said. “She’s a trier. She’s real healthy now, and I think she’ll be a pretty good force in the filly and mare division.”