It's Deja Vu in De Francis Dash; Top 3 from 2003 Return
The top three finishers from last year's race plus four horses who competed in last month's Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) are among the 11 entries for Saturday's $300,000 De Francis Dash (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course. The race is named in honor of the late Frank J. De Francis, the innovative owner of the Maryland Jockey Club who put the state at the forefront of American racing in the late 1980's. The 15th annual Dash tops the Fall Festival of Racing card that features six added money races. A Huevo, Shake You Down and Gators N Bears, who finished 1-2-3 in the 14th running of the De Francis Dash in 2003 at Laurel Park, are pointing toward a rematch. Clock Stopper (sixth), Champali (seventh), Midas Eyes (10th as 7-2 favorite) and Pimlico-based Abbondanza (11th) ran three weeks ago in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park. In a performance worthy of induction into racing's Hall of Fame, trainer Michael Dickinson brought A Huevo back after nearly a four-year layoff last November to record a stunning victory in the Dash at Laurel Park. The conditioner gave his eight-year old a 10-month break after that victory. With two starts this year, A Huevo comes in off a victory in the West Virginia Breeders' Classic last month. "The expectations are high and the horse is doing great," said Ramon Dominguez, who won the first grade I of his career last year aboard the son of 0. Dominguez was on his back 11 days ago for a breeze at Pimlico. Midas Eyes soundly defeated A Huevo in the grade I Forego at Saratoga in September and has been one of the most consistent sprinters in the nation for two years. Trainer Bobby Frankel also has the benefit of riding Edgar Prado, who captured 14 riding titles at Pimlico in the 1990's, and from drawing the inside post position. Pimlico track handicapper Frank Carulli has established the 4-year old colt as the 2-1 morning line favorite. "He is a very nice horse," said Prado, who was in the saddle in the Forego. "You can throw out that last race. We had a bad post position (outside) and there was so much sped in the race. At Pimlico, the rail is gold. I am what I am because of my time in Maryland. I have many friends there and I could never repay them for what they did for my career." After a campaign that saw his charge run 13 races a year ago and challenge for an Eclipse Award, trainer Scott Lake gave Shake You Down a six-month break after four starts this year. The 6-year old, who has two wins in '04, has a couple bullet works at Belmont Park in the last month in preparation for this race. Owned by Robert Cole, the son of Montbrook is four-for-five at Pimlico. "I'd always rather be the hunted," said Lake. "Obviously with him being off we haven't gotten the recognition that we did last year. When horses have the time off you are always curious to see if they come back the same. It looks like he has, but running is a different story." Gators N Bears also has had success at Old Hilltop, finishing in the money all three times, including a victory in the grade III Maryland Breeders' Cup on the Preakness undercard. Owned and trained by Leo Nechmakin at Pimlico, the four-year old has finished in the money in all six tries this year. Abbondanza, from the Tim Tullock stable, also trains at Pimlico. The talented three-year old set sizzling fractions at Lone Star before being wrapped up in the final furlong. The son of Alphabet Soup , who won the Hirsch Jacobs on Preakness day, has had a series of bullet works over the dirt course since September. The De Francis will be the fourth graded race in which Champali and Clock Stopper, who are making the trip together from Churchill Downs, have met during the 2004 racing season. Champali has won four of seven during the year, with wins on three different tracks, while Clock Stopper had five consecutive in the money finishes before the Breeders' Cup. Wildcat Heir faced the duo in the grade III Phoenix at Keeneland in October and was fourth behind Champali (the winner) and third place Clock Stopper. It was the only off the board finish by the Ben Perkins trainee all year. Todd Pletcher entered a pair of starters from his star-studded Belmont-base: Lion Tamer, who is two-for-two at the six furlong distance, and True Direction, who won the 2002 edition of the Hirsch Jacobs at Pimlico. Jockey John Velazquez, who was named on both Lion Tamer and True Direction, was taken off four of his five mounts on Saturday's card. Velazquez leads the nation in money earned with purses of $21.5 million. He is still scheduled to ride Essence, the second choice in the grade III Anne Arundel Stakes. Philadelphia Jim, from the powerful stable of leading owner Michael Gill, has five wins and nine in the money finishes in 13 career starts. 1--Midas Eyes, Edgar Prado, 2-1
2--A Huevo, Ramon Dominguez, 10-1
3--Philadelphia Jim, Jeremy Beasley, 30-1
4--Gators N Bears, Javier Castellano, 15-1
5--Shake You Down, Mike Luzzi, 8-1
6--Champali, Rafael Bejarano, 7-2
7--Clock Stopper, Jerry Bailey, 3-1
8--Wildcat Heir, Stewart Elliott, 20-1
9--Abbondanza, Abel Castellano, 12-1
10--True Direction, open, 30-1
11--Lion Tamer, open, 12-1The other five stakes races on the Fall Festival of Racing card are the grade III $100,000 Laurel Futurity (seven entries), the grade III $100,000 Anne Arundel Stakes (12 entries), the $100,000 Selima Stakes (eight entries), the $100,000 Charles H. Hardy Stakes (10 entries) and the $50,000 Stefanita Stakes (nine entries).
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