Laoban’s 1st-Crop 2YOs Star at Keeneland – His Simply Ravishing Romps by 6¼ in G1 Darley Alcibiades

By Rab Hagin

LAOBAN became the first New York-based sire of a Grade 1 juvenile winner in his first crop when his unbeaten daughter SIMPLY RAVISHING ($304,600) toyed with six rivals in Keeneland’s $350,000 Darley Alcibiades Stakes on Friday, October 2, romping by 6¼ lengths in that event’s fastest time in 22 years. It was the third win in as many starts for the still-unchallenged filly, who races for Harold Lerner LLC, Magdalena Racing (Sherri McPeek) and Nehoc Stables under the care of trainer Kenneth McPeek. She has scored at 1 1/16 miles on dirt (Alcibiades) and turf (Saratoga maiden special) and at seven furlongs on dirt (Saratoga’s off-the-turf P. G. Johnson Stakes in 1:21.85 on September 3).

Astonished observations followed Simply Ravishing’s victory: “I don’t think we know how good she is,” marveled Alan Shell, trainer McPeek’s assistant. Jockey Luis Saez, who has ridden the Laoban filly in all of her races, elaborated: “She breaks so sharp (first out of the gate from the outside post). It was easy. When we came to the straight, she just took off. Like nothing. It was amazing. She’s a very good filly.”

Simply Ravishing’s gate-to-wire Alcibiades tally off remarkably even fractions qualified her for the next stated goal, the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland on November 6. The New York-bred’s win margin was the second widest (a neck short of the widest) in the Alcibiades’ 39-year history at 1 1/16 miles, won four times by divisional champions. Simply Ravishing is the first starter out of an unplaced mare, representing the first black type in two generations of her female line.

Following Friday’s Alcibiades were two additional standout performances by Laoban’s 2-year-olds the next day at Keeneland: Kentucky-bred colts DREAMER’S DISEASE, who won a $62,180 dirt mile allowance optional by 4½ lengths, and KEEPMEINMIND, who placed second behind the favorite among nine in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, earning $80,000. Both are homebreds for the Southern Equine Stable(s) LLC established by Texas-Louisiana energy entrepreneur Michael Moreno, which also raced Grade 2 winner Laoban in partnership with McCormick Racing LLC. Dreamer’s Disease also has a mile win on turf (by four lengths against nine in an Ellis Park maiden special) and is the first multiple winner produced from his dam. Keepmeinmind, still a maiden after two starts with closing runner-up efforts at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, surprised some at 52.70-to-1, but not his connections, including his jockey in both outings, David Cohen: “He’s still a bit green,” explained Cohen. “We had a little bit of trouble in the first turn with horses on the outside coming in, but I was…able to maintain somewhat of a position. I was happy with his courage and his finish. His gallop-out was tremendous.”

Keepmeinmind is the third Grade 1-Grade 2 stakes horse from Laoban’s first crop and the first Grade 1 stakes horse produced from his unraced dam. Laoban’s first graded stakes performer, Ellis Park debut winner AVA’S GRACE, also is a Kentucky homebred for Southern Equine who in her second start placed third in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Adirondack under top weight of 122 pounds as the only May foal (foaled 5-15-18) in that event. Ava’s Grace is the first black-type stakes horse produced from her unplaced dam.

Robertino Diodoro, who trains for Southern Equine, is a big fan of Laoban’s runners: “They’re just very professional; they’re good-looking horses and very smart horses. A friend of mine has got one at Prairie Meadows, and without me even saying anything, he started telling me about this Laoban he’s got. He said the same thing – he (the horse) acts like a nice 3-year-old.”

Diodoro’s friend probably was referring to Laoban’s fifth first-crop winner, MO PROMISING VOWS, who won a 5½-furlong maiden special for juveniles on Friday evening (October 2) at Prairie Meadows, scoring by 3¾ lengths as the favorite among seven. The New York-bred races for Jo Dee Hoovestal and is the first 2-year-old winner produced from his placed dam.

In addition to winners on dirt (five times) and turf (twice), Laoban also has a winner on all-weather, owner-trainer Nathan Squires’ New York-bred JACOBA, who broke his maiden against seven at Woodbine despite a bumped start while going seven furlongs in his second outing on September 20. The colt is the first 2-year-old winner produced from his placed dam.

Laoban is among three sons of UNCLE MO ranked among the top four North American first-crop sires through the first weekend of October and the only 2020 top-10 first-crop sire standing outside Kentucky. His runners have won an equal number of races at under a mile and at a mile and beyond, giving him the longest average winning distance (7.19 furlongs) among 2020’s top-10 first-crop sires.