Laughing Fox 'needs a certain setup' to vie for a Travers Stakes win

NYRA Press Office
August 22, 2019 05:19pm
Laughing Fox 'needs a certain setup' to vie for a Travers Stakes win
Photo: Coady Photography
Alex and JoAnn Lieblong's stakes winner Laughing Fox, fourth off a two-month break between races in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets back on July 27, gets a chance to improve on that performance in Saturday's Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes.
 
The Jim Dandy was the first start for Laughing Fox since running fifth in the Preakness Stakes on May 18 at Pimlico Race Course. The Travers will mark his third try against Grade 1 company, as he also finished fourth in the Arkansas Derby on April 13.
 
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Laughing Fox had his final pre-Travers work on Sunday, going an easy half-mile in 50.15 seconds over the Oklahoma training track.
 
Laughing Fox, a confirmed closer, was beaten five lengths by Tax in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy after racing inside early and coming with a six-wide move in the stretch. He gets another furlong in the 1 ¼-mile Travers, which drew a field of 12 led by Jim Dandy and Belmont Stakes runner-up Tacitus.
 
"He needs a certain setup, and he has a hard time getting it. He needs some speed to be able to run them down," Alex Lieblong said. "That's his best, and I think there will be plenty of speed in this one, for sure. He got pinned down a little bit on the rail the first [turn] in the Jim Dandy and had a hard time getting out, and then he finally got out. It's funny, that horse makes up a lot of ground right at the end, like he did at the Preakness, [when] he had to swing so far out there and keep on. He's one of those that just keeps coming."
 
Laughing Fox rallied from well back on the far outside to notch his first stakes win in the May 4 Oaklawn Invitational, earning an automatic berth to the Preakness. Prior to that, he ran behind Omaha Beach, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched with a breathing issue three days before the race, in both the Grade 2 Rebel and Arkansas Derby.
 
In the Arkansas Derby, Laughing Fox was a length behind Country House in third. Country House, being given the rest of 2019 off to build toward a 4-year-old campaign, was elevated to victory in the Kentucky Derby following the disqualification of first-place finisher Maximum Security for interference.
 
The Lieblongs have enjoyed past success at Saratoga, winning the Grade 1 Sword Dancer with Telling in 2009 and 2010; the Grade 1 King's Bishop -- now run as the H. Allen Jerkens on the Travers Day undercard -- with The Big Beast in 2014; and the Grade 2 Saratoga Special with I Spent It in 2014.
 
To date, their most special Saratoga victory came in front-running fashion with Embellish the Lace in the Grade 1 Alabama in 2015, the Spa's filly equivalent to the Travers. Trained by Anthony Dutrow, who also conditioned The Big Beast and I Spent It, Embellish the Lace went off at 6-1.
 
"It's hard to top the Alabama but [to win] this would top the Alabama," Alex Lieblong said. "That's always been one of my favorite races, and I was able to win that one. I always liked the King's Bishop, and we won that one. We won the Saratoga Special, but the Travers is the Travers. If you can get that one, you've done pretty good."
 
Laughing Fox went off at 15-1 in the Jim Dandy, and will be ridden back by Ricardo Santana, Jr. In Telling's two Sword Dancer wins, he was sent to post at odds of 33-1 ($68) and 10-1 ($22.60).
 
"I won the Sword Dancer years ago and I think he went off at [big odds], so I'm used to deep water," Lieblong said. "We're looking forward to it. It's nice racing up there and the weather is supposed to be nice."

2019 Travers Stakes (G1)

 

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