Laila’s Punch Keeps Her Cool at Laurel
At first, trainer Eddie Gaudet was audacious with his filly Laila’s Punch, putting the daughter of top Maryland stallion Two Punch in a stakes race in her very first start as a 2year- old. That day last September at Laurel Park, Laila’s Punch showed her inexperience, losing her cool, flipping over during saddling in the paddock and finishing a miserable sixth.
Since then, Gaudet has taken things easy, allowing Laila’s Punch to unspool her considerable talent nice and slow. The extra patience and schooling has paid off, and Laila’s Punch paid her boss back yesterday, repelling two serious challenges in the stretch to win the $ 90,000 Smart Halo stakes for 3- year- old fillies at Laurel Park.
After a flat- footed start under leading jockey Jeremy Rose, Laila’s Punch reached the leaders at the far turn in the six- furlong race before taking over and fending off Now It Begins and the late rush of Paying Off. Her winning time of 1 minute 12.39 seconds was far from sensational, but she showed professionalism by not giving in to horses breathing down her neck.
“ There were some nice fillies in there,” Gaudet said. “ She’s kind of showing she belongs here. I like to give them a little time. How many times can they run in a year? You’re better off picking your spots.”
Laila’s Punch may not have won if Now It Begins had a better trip. Under veteran rider Mario Pino, the second- time starter for trainer Michael Trombetta dropped back steadily on the backstretch while racing on the inside after being roughed up in tight quar- ters.
Pino rode high in the saddle until finally angling to the outside on the turn, confronting Laila’s Punch in the stretch and fighting until the end, missing second by a nose to Paying Off.
“ The filly in front wouldn’t give up,” Pino said. “ I tried to lean in on Jeremy to get some gameness into her because she was hanging. The winner is nice. We just couldn’t get by.”
Laila’s Punch has now won three of five starts, two in stakes races.
“ She’s going to keep on improving,” Gaudet said.
Racing Notes: The Laurel turf course saw its first action of the year as 14 horses lined up for the ninth- race finale, a onemile, $ 25,000 optional- claiming race. Classy and Fast, ridden by Luis Garcia for trainer Ben Feliciano Jr., briefly lost the lead in the stretch but regained it to win by a half- length ...
While the Florida Derby held the spotlight at Gulfstream Park, a 3- year- old trained by Laurel Park- based Michael Trombetta continued his steady progress on the undercard. Fighting off a game challenge by Yesbyjimminy in the stretch, Trombetta’s Street Magician held on to win the $ 175,000 Aventura, running the seven- furlong dirt race in a swift 1: 22.38.
While nominated to the Triple Crown, Street Magician has only made three career starts, winning his past two, and Trombetta will not push to get the Kentucky Derby.
“ We’re going to take a good hard look at the Withers [ April 28 at Aqueduct] and take it from there,” said Trombetta, who pointed out that Bernardini used the same race last year as preparation before winning the Preakness Stakes.