Action Andy edges Il Villano in De Francis Memorial Dash

The Laurel fall meet has proven to be a big one for Robert Gerczak's Action Andy

The Laurel fall meet has proven to be a big one for Robert Gerczak's Action Andy. Three weeks after taking the Maryland Million Sprint by 2 3/4 lengths, the five-year-old gelding delivered a thrilling photo-finish score in Saturday's $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, the centerpiece of Laurel's six-stakes Fall Festival of Racing.

Under Horacio Karamanos, Action Andy endured a wide stalking trip in fifth down the backside as Bet the Power and Alsvid traded leads through splits of :22 and :45 2/5. Alsvid put that rival entering the stretch, but came under immediate pressure from the likes of three-year-old Il Villano and Action Andy, who could not be separated in their duel through the final sixteenth and just barely at the wire. When the photo was developed, it showed that Action Andy got his nostril on the line first in a time of 1:10 3/5 for six furlongs on the fast main track.

"I was a little worried at the sixteenth pole, but I know when he kicks he keeps coming," winning trainer Carlos Garcia said. "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."

Action Andy returned $22, $9.20 and $6.60. Il Villano, the 4-1 second choice, had 1 1/2 lengths on Immortal Eyes, who rallied from last in the field of 11 after stumbling at the start. Completing the order of finish were Alsvid, Broad Rule, Bet the Power, Sloane Ranger, Sean Avery, Royal Currier, The Hunk, and 7-5 favorite Pacific Ocean.

Winner last season of the Kitten's Joy at Colonial Downs, Action Andy has now added five stakes wins to his ledger this term. In addition to the De Francis and Maryland Million Sprint, Action Andy captured two stakes at Tampa Bay Downs last winter, the Pelican and the Super, and also took the Da Hoss at Colonial Downs on the turf in June. He finished second in his title defense of the Kitten's Joy in July and also ran third in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day. His record now stands at 29-10-8-4, $524,430.

Bred in Maryland by Carol Kaye-Garcia, Action Andy was sired by multiple Grade 3 Gators N Bears, who ran third in the 2003 De Francis when it was a Grade 1 event, and was produced by the Not for Love mare Love Me Twice.

Regional grass sprinting powerhouse Ben's Cat let down his guard in his title defense of the $148,000 Laurel Dash over six furlongs. Opening up a two-length lead in the stretch while under minimal encouragement, the millionaire saw his undefeated Laurel turf record snapped at five wins when the three-year-old filly Jazzy Idea closed with a rush through the long stretch to take the firm-turf heat by three-quarters of a length while besting her own course record in a time of 1:07 1/5. The 2-1 second choice under Elvis Trujillo, Jazzy Idea paid $6.80, $3.60 and $2.80.

"I'm speechless," owner-trainer Ed Merryman said. "Maybe I should have run her next week (in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint). Her style of just sitting off the pace suited this race perfect today. I left it up to Elvis to go whenever he wanted. She's three-for-three on Laurel turf now and before today Ben's Cat was five-for-five. She is far and above the best horse I have ever had my hands on."

This was the fifth stakes win of the season for Jazzy Idea, whose prior black type triumphs included the overnight Thirty Flags at Belmont and Crank It Up at Monmouth Park, as well as the Jameela and Maryland Million Oaks at the present Laurel stand. Jazzy Idea had previously set the six-furlong course standard with her three-length win in the Jameela in a time of 1:07 2/5.

A Maryland-bred daughter of Great Notion, Jazzy Idea now possesses a mark of 18-8-5-0, $449,000.

Silver Screamer posted her second six-figure stakes win of the season in the $100,500 Lady Baltimore over 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The gray four-year-old enjoyed a close-up stalking trip in third to the stretch when she overtook long-time leader Laughing. Opening up a half-length on that rival a furlong out, the 4-1 third choice was under pressure late to hold off that one's re-rally by a neck with second choice Federation another neck behind in third.

Under Jose Espinoza, Silver Screamer paid $10.40, $6 and $4 after completing the distance in 1:40 3/5.

"She is very professional and very relaxed," Espinoza said. "She broke well and she just relaxed into stride. I didn't have any trouble at all during the race and at the end of the race she could tell they were coming and she kicked in when I asked her to."

Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, Silver Screamer last visited the winner's circle following the Grade 3 Eatontown at Monmouth Park on June 30. She failed to maintain early leads in her next two starts, retreating to fifth in the Grade 3 Matchmaker and third in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel. Her record now stands at 15-7-3-2, $309,995.

The Cozzene filly was bred in Kentucky and is owned by Michael Imperio and Donald Olson.

Prince Farm's Dannhauser parlayed a ground-saving ride by Sheldon Russell into a 22-1 upset score in the $103,000 Laurel Turf Cup over 1 1/2 miles. Tracking much closer to the pace than he had all season, Dannhauser settled in behind the leaders for more than 10 furlongs, found a seam along the inside to surge up in the stretch and held on by a neck in a four-way photo that included Sea Tobe, 97-1 outsider Manchurian High, and Slip and Drive.

Dannhauser returned $46.20, $18.40 and $13.20 after completing the three-turn heat in 2:27.

"He's a wonderful horse, just marvelous to train," winning trainer Kathleen O'Connell said. "We were hoping that Sheldon could get him settled in behind early and he rode him just perfect. This horse really can't go much shorter than 1 1/8 miles and they just don't write many races for horses that want to run longer. But for now, he's a long-distance specialist."

A four-year-old colt by Johannesburg, Dannhauser pushed his career earnings to $185,223 from a line of 12-5-1-2. He made his stakes debut at Colonial Downs in June, finishing fourth in the one-mile Da Hoss behind Action Andy, and then came from 25 lengths down to take the D.G. Van Clief for Virginia-breds by three parts of a length over the same course. He preceded this win with a third to See Tobe in the September 8 Japan Racing Association over the Laurel turf.

Taken back off the pace for the first time in his four-race career, Copper Penny Stables' Tate's Landing enjoyed a perfect outside stalking trip in the $115,000 Laurel Futurity. Gradually making headway approaching the stretch, the 23-1 longshot seized control approaching the eighth pole and drew off to win the 5 1/2-furlong grass test by 3 1/4 lengths over Star Maneuver. Tate's Landing paid $48.60, $21.40 and $13.20 after completing the course in 1:02.

"It was a very good trip," winning jockey Alex Cintron said. "There was a lot of speed in the race and we let them go early and got to the outside and tried something different. We waited to make a move and he ran real well. It was my first time aboard him but he broke well and raced well."

Favored in all three previous starts, Tate's Landing opened his account with a 5 1/2-length debut score at Delaware Park on August 16 going 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track. However, the Orientate colt retreated to second after setting the pace against allowance company at Parx in his next start, and to fifth after showing the same kind of speed in a Delaware allowance last time.

After this initial turf attempt, the Michael Pino trainee has a mark of 4-2-1-0, $101,540. The Kentucky-bred is from the extended family of 1982 juvenile colt champion Roving Boy.

John Davison's Mystic Love ran her turf course record to two-for-two with an off-the-pace victory in the $130,000 Selima for juvenile fillies. Nearly 13 lengths down after a quarter-mile, the daughter of Not for Love weaved her way through the inside of the field around the turn, swung wide in the stretch and mowed down the leaders to take 5 1/2-furlong dash by three parts of a length over Jewel of a Cat in a time of 1:02 1/5.

The 9-2 fourth choice in a field of 12, Mystic Love returned $11.20, 5.20 and $4.20.

A course-and-distance debut winner by four lengths on September 14, Mystic Love failed to handle the dirt as the favorite in the October 6 Maryland Million Lassie, where she raced evenly throughout in a fifth-place effort.

"We were disappointed in our Maryland Million race because she trained so well on the dirt and always has," winning trainer Francis Campitelli said. "Even though the Maryland Million was a restricted race, I thought we would try it anyway because we thought she could hit the board. Just this morning the girl that gets on her every day (Molly Moran) told me that now that she thinks about it, she is much happier on the turf. We worked her on the turf last week and had her out on it today. She just loves it."

Ridden here by Elvis Trujillo, Mystic Love has now earned $114,760. The Maryland-bred hails from the extended family of Hall of Fame filly Go for Wand.

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