Sean Avery Can Bounce Back in De Francis Dash
Grade I winner Sean Avery, who split the field in the Vosburgh Invitational (gr. I) as the favorite last month, is the 5-2 morning line choice for the $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park Oct. 27.
Eleven sprinters are entered for the main track in the De Francis Dash, the headline event on Laurel's "Fall Festival of Racing" card. The six-furlong De Francis, which gets a boost in purse from $150,000 last year, is the 10th on the program with a 5:14 p.m. EDT post. The race lost its graded status after not being contested in 2008 and 2010 due to budgetary constraints.
This year's card includes five stakes to be contested on turf worth $150,000 apiece, bringing the total stakes purse level to $1.1 million for the afternoon.
The other stakes are the Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds and the Selima Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, both at 5 1/2 furlongs; the six-furlong Laurel Dash for 3 & up; the Lady Baltimore Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles; and the 1-1/2 mile Laurel Turf Cup. The six stakes races on the program garnered 82 entries.
Introduced in 1990, the De Francis Dash is one of the elite six-furlong sprints in the country with four of the 20 winners—Housebuster (1991), Cherokee Run (1994), Smoke Glacken (1997), and Thor's Echo (2006)—earning Eclipse Award honors for champion sprinter.
Black Swan Stable's 6-year-old Sean Avery won the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course at 17-1 odds in August 2011 but has run just twice since then. The Allen Iwinski trainee won the Affiliate Stakes at Belmont Park Sept. 8 then finished fifth in Belmont's Vosburgh three weeks later. The son of Cherokee Run pressed the pace in the Vosburgh but came up empty in the lane, finishing 6 1/4 lengths behind The Lumber Guy.
Sean Avery has won five of seven starts since Iwinski took over as his trainer in 2011. Joe Bravo rides from post 6.
A horse with stalking ability, Sean Avery will have a ready target in the speedy Pacific Ocean, who was given a brief freshening by trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. following a fading fifth-place effort in the Sept. 1 Forego Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. Pacific Ocean, pegged at 7-2, won Saratoga's James Marvin Stakes (gr. III) in front-running fashion prior the Forego.
The son of Ghostzapper also has a grade III win to his credit in the Vernon O. Underwood at Betfair Hollywood Park last November. Dutrow captured the De Francis Dash in 2007 with Benny the Bull. Ramon Dominguez, who won his first grade I race in the 2003 De Francis Dash aboard A Huevo, will be aboard the 5-year-old gelding.
MAT Stables' Royal Currier ran third in the Affiliate, 2 1/4 lengths behind Sean Avery, after winning the Mr. Prospector and Teddy Drone stakes at Monmouth Park in July for trainer Patricia Farro. Luis Garcia, who rode the 4-year-old Red Bullet gelding to a runner-up finish behind Ben's Cat in the 2011 Laurel Dash, picks up the mount on Royal Currier, 9-2 on the early line.
Action Andy went gate-to-wire victory in the Jim McKay Maryland Million Sprint at Laurel Oct. 6. Trained by Carlos Garcia, the 5-year-old son of Gators N Bears has four stakes victories this year, winning the Pelican and Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last winter and adding the Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial Downs this summer. The gelding is listed at 6-1.
"He doesn't need to be in the lead. He can sit right behind and make one run at it," Garcia said. "No matter where you run him he does very well. Right now he's at the top of his game. He's training superb and came out of the (Maryland Million Sprint) so good and deserves a chance. It's a tough race, you have a grade I winner in and the Dutrow horse is nice."
Immortal Eyes, 20-1, finished a half-length behind Candyman E in last year's De Francis Dash for trainer Damon Dilodovico. The 7-year-old son of Greatness comes into the race off a victory in the Jefferson County Commission Handicap at Hollywood Casino At Charles Town Races Oct. 19. Travis Dunkelberger is his regular rider.
"He really came out of (the Charles Town) race very well and we feel like he's peaking," Dilodovico said. "We considered passing the Charles Town race and going straight to the Dash but that was a race where we felt we were going to be very tough to beat. He was definitely on his game last year. We kind of feel he's moving toward that right now."
$350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes (Race 10, 5:09 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs
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