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Ravalo faces 9 in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.
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Anne M. Eberhardt

De Francis Dash Draws Large Field for Return

Former grade I event at Laurel Park has been run just once since 2008.

Returned to the Laurel Park stakes calendar after a one-year hiatus, the $150,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash drew a field of 10, led by two-time grade III winner Ravalo.

The six-furlong event, run as a grade II in 2009 for $300,000, lost its graded status after being canceled last year. It returns as the feature of Laurel’s 10-race Saturday program. Post time is set for 5:07 p.m. EDT.
The De Francis Dash, first run in 1992, was a grade I race from 1997-2007. It was also canceled in 2008.
Lindy Redding’s 7-year-old Ravalo is set to make the 47th start of his career. The son of Mutakddim has won once in five starts this season that coming two starts back in the Aug. 20 Remington Park Sprint Cup. Most recently, he was fourth in the Sept. 9 Presque Isle Downs Mile.
Bred in Kentucky by Heaven Trees, Ravalo’s biggest career wins have come in the 2009 Maryland Sprint Handicap (gr. III) at Pimlico and in the last year’s Kennedy Road Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine. Based at Laurel for trainer Donald Barr, he is winless in five tries at his home track.
Carrying top weight of 122 pounds including Jeremy Rose, Ravalo will break from rail.
Fair Hill-based trainer Michael Trombetta will saddle a pair of contenders, Congressional Page and Despite the Odds . They will run as a coupled entry for R. Larry Johnson.
Congressional Page, a 6-year-old Orientate gelding, won his first start of the year Sept. 28, a 6 1/2-furlong allowance sprint at Presque Isle. A stakes winner at Monmouth Park last year, he was also three times graded stakes-placed. Rosie Napravnik will have the mount.
“He ran great in his last start,” said Trombetta, who also has a string of 30 runners training at Laurel Park. “We have run into some of the best sprinters with him, knocking heads with Quality Road, Munnings, Big Drama and Jackson Bend. That is a tall order and he has taken them all on and done the best that he could.”
Despite the Odds, a 5-year-old by Speightstown , won for the first time in 2011 in his sixth start when taking an optional claimer Aug. 22 at Saratoga. Most recently, he was ninth in the Woodford (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland. Two of Despite the Odds’ four lifetime wins have come at Laurel.
"He is a pretty nice horse,” said Trombetta, who is nine wins shy of 1,000 for his career. “We ran him on the turf at Keeneland last time but think he’ll be better returning to the dirt.”
Another top contender is West Point Thoroughbreds’ Sunrise Smarty, who has won two of his last four starts. The 4-year-old son of Smarty Jones  was being considered for the Oct. 1 Vosburgh Invitational (gr. I) at Belmont, but trainer Mike Hushion instead ran him in the Oct. 9 Duck Dance overnight stakes, where he finished runner-up. Both of his wins this year came in allowance company in New York.
“He runs his race every time you lead him over which is what I like most about him,” said Hushion. “There are no secrets. He is what he is on form. You don’t have any throw outs in his form. He has developed nicely.”
The 2-1 morning-line favorite is Tony Dutrow trainee Candyman E, who seeks his fourth straight victory. The 4-year-old Candy Ride  gelding won a $40,000 claiming race at Delaware Park in July before reeling off consecutive optional claiming scores at Delaware and Parx Racing. He has only been off the board once in nine career tries.
“He is in top form,” Dutrow said. “I think he is best when he can sit off and make a run. An old friend thought the horse would be useful in the northeast this summer and sent me to him. I am happy things have worked out well. He has been as good as advertised and has taken us to the De Francis.”
Wildcat Brief, a winner at Laurel Sept. 10 in optional claiming company, makes the trek back down from his base at Monmouth Park for owner-trainer Ben Perkins Jr. He was third in last year’s Vosburgh.
$150,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (Race 9, 5:07 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Ravalo (KY), J Rose, 122, D H Barr
2. Despite the Odds (KY), M Franklin, 118, M J Trombetta
3. Congressional Page (KY), R Napravnik, 118, M J Trombetta
4. Immortal Eyes (FL), T L Dunkelberger, 118, D R Dilodovico
5. Wildcat Brief (KY), P Lopez, 118, B W Perkins Jr.
6. Candyman E (KY), J Bravo, 118, A W Dutrow
7. Sunrise Smarty (KY), S Russell, 118, M E Hushion
8. Sloane Ranger (PA), H Karamanos, 118, M E Ciresa
9. Regal Solo (MD), No rider, 118, D R Dilodovico
10. It's Never to Late (FL), J Santiago 118 J R Cartagena