Favored Candyman E, overcoming trouble for jockey Joe Bravo entering the turn, exploited an opening along the inside to prevail in the $150,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Oct. 22 at Laurel Park (VIDEO) .
The victory, by a half-length over Immortal Eyes, was the fourth in succession for the 4-year-old son of Candy Ride who was making his stakes debut for trainer Tony Dutrow. Owned by Kuehne Racing, Morris Bailey, Michael Dubb, and The Elkstone Group, the sizzling Candyman E has won six of seven start in 2011.
Dutrow’s father, Dick, won the De Francis Dash with Lite the Fuse in 1995 and 1996. His brother, Rick, was victorious in 2007 with Benny the Bull.
The De Francis Dash, previously a grade I event, returned to the Laurel schedule in 2011 after a one-year absence. The race, a casualty of purse account shortfalls, was stripped of its graded status because it had not been contested in two of the past three years.
“We were very happy to win it,” said Dutrow, who was based at Laurel Park for many years before relocating to Delaware Park. “We don’t even have a plan for this horse after this win because, with this field, anyone’s number could have been up there on the board and it would not have been a surprise.”
Following a brisk pace (:22.38, :45.21) while saving ground for Bravo, Candyman E completed the six-furlong test in 1:09.43. Nine competed, with Candyman E, coming off a four-length victory over an optional claiming allowance field at Philadelphia's Parx Racing Sept. 5, sent off as the 9-5 choice.
“This horse sat in behind horses really comfortable, relaxed and we were looking for a place to run and it kind of opened up in the lane and he said ‘let’s go jock, hold on!’,” Bravo said. “The horse went over there with his head on and ready to win today. Turning for home I knew I had a good shot and when I got clear he was full of run to the finish.”
Nelson Bunker Hunt bred Candyman E in Kentucky. The chestnut gelding is out of the Sea of Secrets mare Flo Rose 'n Net.
Immortal Eyes, ridden by Travis Dunkelberger, took the early lead but was soon challenged by Despite the Odds and those two dueled for a hot half-mile. Congressional Page, part of an entry along with Despite the Odds for trainer Michael Trombetta, was also up close in third.
Candyman E, racing in fifth along the inside, was steadied and shuffled back to seventh leaving the backstretch. He was ridden aggressively by Bravo around the turn to get into contention coming into the stretch.
Advancing between horses, Candyman E slipped through along the inside at mid-stretch and grabbed the lead in the final furlong from Immortal Eyes, who had opened a clear advantage in the lane. Passed in deep stretch, Immortal Eyes dug in and was gradually coming back at the winner in the final strides.
“Another exciting De Francis Dash and I’m happy to be a part of it," Dutrow said. "He (De Francis) was a wonderful man. We’re really excited about this guy’s performance today. He faced some good horses and answered a lot of questions today."
Immortal Eyes finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of the late-running Sloane Ranger, who rallied six wide in upper stretch for Horacio Karamanos to get the show spot by a head over Regal Solo. Wildcat Brief, Sunrise Smarty, Congressional Page, Ravalo, and Despite the Odds completed the order.
“What a huge effort,” said Dunkelberger of the runner-up. “Even when Tony’s horse ran by us he dug in and kept battling. That is all you can ask. He has given me everything he’s got each time I have ridden him.”
Seven-year-old Ravalo, winner of the 2009 De Francis Dash, was not a factor this time as the 122-pound high weight.
Candyman E earned $90,000 for his first added-money score, boosting his career bankroll to $241,193 on the strength of a 6-1-2 record in 10 starts. Carrying 118 pounds in his Laurel debut, he returned $5.60, $3.80, and $3.60, and keyed a $39.60 exacta.
Immortal Eyes, losing for just the second time in seven starts for Bowie-based trainer Damon Dilodovico in 2011, returned $6.20 and $5. Robert Abbo Racing Stable's 6-year-old son of Greatness had a three-race winning streak halted.
Sloane Ranger, sent off at 20-1 odds in spite of his victory in the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap as the favorite over the track Oct. 1, paid $6.60.
It's Never to Late scratched.