Edited Laurel Park release
Three of the nation’s elite sprinters and the top two local speedsters are among the 37 pre-entries for the 19th running of the $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) at Laurel Park Oct. 24.
The De Francis Dash is one of just three grade I races contested in Maryland, along with the Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, and the Pimlico Special. The Dash was not carded in 2008 due to a purse account shortfall.
Introduced in 1990, the De Francis Dash is one of the elite six-furlong events in the country with four of the 18 winners—Housebuster (1991), Cherokee Run (1994), Smoke Glacken (1997), and Thor’s Echo (2006)—earning Eclipse Award honors for champion sprinter.
Normally contested a month after the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Maryland Jockey Club officials moved the De Francis Dash to accommodate horsemen who prefer not to run over the Pro-Ride synthetic surface at Santa Anita Park, site of the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Nov. 6-7.
Fabulous Strike has been first or second in five starts (all grade I or grade II sprints) during his 6-year-old campaign. Trainer Todd Beattie’s star has 12 lifetime stakes victories, including the grade I Vosburgh in 2007. The son of Smart Strike finished second in the grade II General George Handicap in February.
Kodiak Kowboy defeated Fabulous Strike in a pair of grade I stakes this year: Carter Handicap (Apr. 4) and Vosburgh (Oct. 3). The Dash could be used as a prep race for the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Nov. 28, which would give the 4-year-old grade I wins at three different distances this year. The Vosburgh and De Francis Dash are both six furlongs.
Godolphin Stable’s talented 3-year-old Vineyard Haven was disqualified from first and placed second in the grade I King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 29. The son of Lido Palace won a pair of grade I races during his 2-year-old year.
Laurel Park-based Ravalo and Ah Day have each won 10 stakes. The former, trained by Donald Barr, has nine stakes victories at the distance, including the grade III Maryland Sprint Handicap on the Preakness undercard. The latter, conditioned by King Leatherbury, has won added money races at four different distances.
MJC stakes coordinator Coley Blind expects General George winner True Qualityand Maryland Million Sprint champion Roaring Lion to compete in Laurel’s most important race. The post-position draw for the card is set for Oct. 21. The program will also feature a pair of $50,000 Maryland-bred stakes: The Find Handicap and Twixt Stakes.
The first 4,000 full-paid admissions with receive a complimentary “Dash of Color” sweatshirt, which features the silks of the previous 18 winners. Live music will be performed by Mr. Greengenes. In addition, there will be sample wines and beer in the Horse Wizard room.