FLOWER BOWL | PURSE: $600,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 1 | 1 1/4 MILES (TURF)
Laughing, half of a Richard Santulli-owned and Alan Goldberg-trained favored entry, led from start to finish and held off a furious charge from stablemate Tannery to win the $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park Sept. 28.
A 5-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Dansili ridden by Jose Lezcano, Laughing set pedestrian fractions of :25.68, :51.46, and 1:16.02 while being pursued by Somali Lemonade throughout the first six furlongs of the 1 ¼-mile test over firm turf. Still leading after a mile went in 1:39.48, Laughing took the advantage into the stretch as a cavalry charge unfolded behind the mare. Irish-bred Tannery, who was coupled with Laughing, unleashed an eye-catching run from next-to-last on the outside under Javier Castellano to just miss, with Mystical Star rallying for third. Final time of 2:02.34 was well off the course record 1:57 ⅗.
The entry paid $3.20, $3.40, and $2.40 for first and second, with Mystical Star worth $5.70.
The victory was the eighth in 15 starts for Laughing, who was bred by Floors Farming and The Duke of Devonshire. She has now earned $1,178,855.
A $459,488 purchase by Charles O'Brien at the 2009 Tattersalls October yearling sale, the mare was a stakes winner in Ireland for O'Brien and owners Mrs. John Magnier and Mrs. Jacqueline O'Brien before being purchased by Santulli midway through her 3-year-old season.
The Flower Bowl was the fourth in as many starts this year for Laughing, who was off from October of 2012 until June 29 when she defeated Dayatthespa and Ruthenia in the Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth Park.
In her grade I debut, Laughing went from gate to wire to post a game head victory over Dream Peace in the Diana at Saratoga Race Course in July. In her final outing before the Flower Bowl, Laughing was also a head winner of the Ballston Spa.
Tannery, who won the Sheepshead Bay Stakes at Belmont in May, came into the Flower Bowl off a rallying fourth against males in the Sword Dancer.
"She's better at a mile and a quarter when they go [three quarters] in 1:16," Goldberg said of the winner. "It was great. If somebody jumps up and runs a great race in the Breeders' Cup, they'll just make them champion, but as far as anybody who has run, I don't think there's anybody that's done what she's done this year."
"She broke perfect and she went very comfortably the whole way," jockey Lezcano said. "When I asked, she gave me the kick I needed to win the race. This was a very good race, especially going longer [than her last two wins at Saratoga] today. I think this was her best race."
"She's won two grade I's, a grade II, and a Grade 3," Santulli said of his mare's accomplishments. "Who's done better? I told him [Goldberg] today, I don't think any of them can beat us. Tannery might beat her, but none of these horses."