By Dick Downey
Laughing Fox, coming off a fourth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby, progressed from that race by winning Saturday’s inaugural Oaklawn Invitational at OaklawnPark, earning him an automatic berth in the Preakness Stakes.
Proverb led through fractions of 22.87, 46.98 and 1:11.26 and led into the stretch, looking like a winner as he was in front by two lengths with a furlong remaining in the race. But Night Ops, who had stalked the pace throughout, closed in on Proverb to grab the lead inside the furlong grounds, only to be hooked by Laughing Fox. With Ramon Vazquez in the irons, Laughing Fox initially raced near the back of the field, came four wide into the stretch and got the win by a neck over Night Ops. Proverb held on for third. The final time was 1:49.78 for 1 1/8 mile.
Those three were followed by Math Wizard, Roiland, Chess Chief, Harvey Wallbanger, Wicked Indeed, Comedian, Shang and Hidden Ruler.
“He’s a nice horse,” Vazquez said. “When I asked him, he gave me everything. I had a lot of horse before the quarter pole. He’s a nice horse and was working well in the morning.”
Laughing Fox broke his maiden opening day of the 2019 live season and won an allowance race on Feb. 18. He finished sixth in the second division of the Rebel Stakes prior to his start in the Arkansas Derby.
“He held his weight so good,” co-owner Alex Lieblong said. “I sent Steve (Asmussen) and Darren (Fleming) both a text, I guess it was Thursday. I said, ‘Look guys, if the horse is holding his weight, fine, but if it looks like he’s tired any at all, let’s don’t go. Don’t go for my sake.’ And Steve gave the answer back, ‘Hey, I’m leaving that to you and Darren.’ I said, ‘OK, thanks.’ I came over and watched him and, if anything, I think he put on weight since the Derby.
"So, we’ll just have to see how he does come bouncing out of it. But he’s a stout horse. The Preakness really had nothing to do with it. Nothing. Purse wasn’t bad. Don’t get me wrong. He fit and he was doing well. The horses that he ran behind in the Arkansas Derby, I thought were very legitimate horses in the Arkansas Derby.”