‘Throwback’ horse Laughing Fox has Saratoga's Jim Dandy next

July 17, 2019 09:56am
‘Throwback’ horse Laughing Fox has Saratoga's Jim Dandy next
Photo: Coady Photography

Tossing results from Laughing Fox’s juvenile season, Alex Lieblong, who campaigns the Union Rags colt with his wife, JoAnn, sees a horse with just one poor race heading into a major summer assignment.

The Steve Asmussen trainee thus has joined the prospective field for Saratoga’s Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes on July 27.

“We had to let him grow into himself,” Lieblong said. “You couldn’t crank on him as a 2-year-old — put him in a six-furlong race and try to get him there.”

Laughing Fox, who breezed five furlongs on Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track Monday in 1:01.19, opened his 2019 campaign by stretching to win 1 1/16-mile maiden and allowance races at Oaklawn Park.

Then came that dull performance when he ran seventh of 10 in Omaha Beach’s division of the Rebel Stakes (G2).

“He had gone through one heck of a growth spurt into the Rebel,” Lieblong said. “I think that knocked his coordination and everything off kilter.”

Now, while he’s not quite as large as Grade 1 winner The Big Beast, another of the Lieblongs’ runners, the chestnut colt earned a comparison to the top former sprinter and current sire.

“He’s not a dainty little horse,” Alex Lieblong said. “I’d be tickled pink if he ran a respectful race in the Jim Dandy.”

The 1 1/8-mile race could feature the likes of Preakness Stakes winner War of Will, plus Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes second-place finishers Code of Honor and Tacitus. Not that Laughing Fox hasn’t already matched up against this type of foe.

He was fourth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) to Omaha Beach, Improbable and Country House; parlayed his big closing move to a victory May 4 in the Oaklawn Invitational; and earned his way into the Preakness Stakes, where he was 25 lengths back at the first call but rallied to be fifth by 3 3/4 lengths.

“That’s kind of a throwback style,” Lieblong said. “He did the same thing at Oaklawn the day he came back and won. He’s got that move. He will drag you up there.”

Laughing Fox closed over a speed-biased track in the Oaklawn Invitational. Then in the Preakness, the rail was thought to be benefitting horses. But under Ricardo Santana Jr. the colt ran out of room on the inside, shifted out and still made gains.

“The middle of the track was not your friend, so to speak,” Lieblong said, “but when he couldn’t stay on the rail, he had to take him wide there. It’s amazing how much ground that horse can make up rather quickly.

“People don’t give him much credit because they’ll say, ‘Oh, fifth.’ But they don’t understand what he had to do to get to fifth.”

Laughing Fox shows seven works since the Preakness, four at Churchill Downs and three at Saratoga.

“He’s an honest horse,” Lieblong added. “If he ever gets to look one in the eye, he doesn’t lay down easy.”

2019 Jim Dandy (G2)


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