Action Andy closed relentlessly on the outside to get up in the final strides by a whisker over a game Il Villano in a terrific finish to win the $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park Oct. 27 (VIDEO) .
The De Francis Dash highlighted a big afternoon of racing at the Maryland track that included four other six-figure stakes on the Fall Festival of Racing program.
Action Andy, ridden by Horacio Karamanos, won his second straight over the course and distance after taking the Maryland Million Sprint Oct. 6 by 2 3/4 lengths. Trained by Carlos Garcia for owner Robert Gerczak, the 5-year-old Maryland-bred gelding by Gators N Bears out of the Not For Love mare Love Me Twice was sent off at odds of 10-1.
The winning margin was officially a nose in a time of 1:10.61 for six furlongs on a fast track. Action Andy won for the sixth time in 10 starts in 2012.
Carole Kaye-Garcia bred the winner.
"I was a little worried at the sixteenth pole, but I know when he kicks he keeps coming," said his trainer. "He trained better than he ever has coming into this race and Horacio rode him to perfection. That was an extremely nice horse he beat today. They both wanted to win; you could see that. But I guess he wanted it more. This is the biggest win of my career. It's hard to explain how I feel right now."
Garcia ranked in the top 10 of the Maryland standings for five straight years in the early 1990's. This was his 145th stakes victory.
"I'm so happy for Carlos, said Karamanos. "My horse has improved a lot. Carlos made a good decision to switch back to dirt and less distance."
Bet the Power, The Hunk, and Alsvid, on the far outside, vied through quick opening fractions of :22.15 and :45.46 before Il Villano angled off the rail for Kendrick Carmouche to join the leaders in the stretch. Alsvid hit the front coming into the lane and held on past the furlong pole but was overtaken by Il Villano and Action Andy, who was all out under right-handed urging to get up by the narrowest of margins.
Action Andy raced mid-pack before coming under pressure from Karamanos mid-turn.
"He was real comfortable and I wanted him in a good position," Karamanos said. "(Il Villano) was coming inside and we were head to head to the end. I don't think he ever actually got ahead of us, but it was tight."
Immortal Eyes, a 29-1 shot, overcame a stumble at the break and finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind the first two. Then came Alsvid, Broad Rule, Bet the Power, Sloane Ranger, Sean Avery, Royal Currier, The Hunk, and 7-5 favorite Pacific Ocean, who gave way readily after chasing the early pace.
"We were matching strides with the horses to his outside but he just didn't have it today," jockey Ramon Dominguez said of the favorite.
A crowd of 5,049 attended the races on a pleasant afternoon in central Maryland. The 11-race program featured 115 runners, including 70 in the six stakes races.
"This is the best card we've had at Laurel in the five years I have been here," Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said. "The racing office did a tremendous job of filling the races with quality and quantity."
Action Andy, improving his lifetime record to 10-8-4 in 29 lifetime starts with earnings of $524,430, paid $22, $9.20, and $6.60 as the sixth choice in the field of 11. Il Villano, making his Laurel Park debut for trainer Susan Crowell, returned $5.40 and $4.60 while completing a $144 exacta. Immortal Eyes, runner-up in last year's De Francis Dash, paid $10.60 to show.