Godolphin's big year continued Oct. 24 when odds-on choice Vineyard Haven burst through along the inside in deep stretch to capture the $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) (VIDEO) over a sloppy track at Laurel Park.
With Alan Garcia aboard, Vineyard Haven atoned for his disqualification after winning Saratoga's King's Bishop (gr. I) in his last start.
The only 3-year-old in the De Francis field, Vineyard Haven languished in fourth at the eighth pole as Ravalo, on the far outside, challenged the pacesetting Fleet Valid. Ravalo got the lead as the field closed in on the wire, but Vineyard Haven charged through an opening to get up in the final strides by a half-length. The final time for the six-furlong event, one of just three grade I races on the Maryland calendar, was 1:09.62 over a sealed track.
Ravalo, ridden by Jeremy Rose, edged Fleet Valid and Pablo Morales by a half-length for second.
Winner of the Hopeful and Champagne stakes (both gr. I) as a 2-year-old, Vineyard Haven recorded his third grade I victory for conditioner Saeed bin Suroor in his first try against older horses.
“It is very difficult for a 3-year-old to compete against a solid field of older sprinters as he did today,” assistant trainer Rick Mettee said. “Going three-quarters instead of seven-eighths makes it an entirely different race. These horses run hard every step. Most have a good amount of speed themselves and they don’t stop until the wire. The DeFrancis Dash is one of the harder sprint races to win in this country.
"There are a lot of very talented horses in the mid-Atlantic at this time. This was as good a race as he has ever run. He had to go out and win this race today. There were good local horses and they were tough to beat. I was very concerned. It was a great performance and Alan gave him a really good ride.”
Fleet Valid dueled sharply with Roaring Lion for the lead through a sizzling opening quarter-mile of :21.89 and a half-mile in :44.68. The stalking Sacred Journey, vying on the outside, fronted Fleet Valid in upper stretch, but Fleet Valid fought back from between rivals to get a narrow advantage approaching mid-stretch.
Ravalo, never far back, got the edge less than 100 yards from home after being carried wide in the lane by Sacred Journey and appeared to be headed for victory under Rose. But Vineyard Haven, who saved ground before dropping back a bit on the turn, was fully engaged under strong encouragement from Garcia and roared past Fleet Valid and Ravalo in the shadow of the wire.
“During the first part of the race I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to get there, but when the rail opened my horse just started running for the hole,” said Garcia. “He is a really nice horse. This was a great effort.”
Vineyard Haven returned from a six-month absence to cross the wire first in the Aug. 29 King's Bishop. But in a grueling stretch run on a sloppy Saratoga main track, stewards ruled that Vineyard Haven had drifted out close to home and bumped Capt. Candyman Can. Vineyard Haven was dropped to second for interference.
Purchased privately for a reported $12 million by Godolphin late last year, the lightly-raced son of Lido Palace--Princess Aloha (by Aloha Prospector) began his Triple Crown campaign in Dubai. He was slow to adapt to his new surroundings, finishing fourth in the UAE Two Thousand Guineas (UAE-III) in February and went to the sidelines until shipping back to the U.S. for the King's Bishop.
Vineyard Haven posted his fourth lifetime win in seven starts and boosted his earnings to $671,500. The winning purse for the De Francis Dash was $180,000.
Lynn M. Scace bred Vineyard Haven in Florida and trained the gray/roan colt at the beginning of his career.
Vineyard Haven carrying 116 pounds, two fewer than each of his rivals, paid $3.60, $2.40 and $2.20.
Ravalo, a grade III winner for trainer Donald Barr, returned $4.40 and $3 in a game effort. The exacta was worth $16.60.
“He ran huge,” Barr said. “I had a good trip and was able to rate a bit like I wanted to. That other horse is a better horse than I am right now. There is no embarrassment here.”
Fleet Valid, whose four-race win streak for trainer Scott Volk ended in a valiant try, was $3.40 to show.
“He ran really hard,” said jockey Morales. “He got a little tired at the end. We were pressured the entire way. My horse ran as hard as he could.”
It was 3 1/2 lengths to Sacred Journey in fourth. Ah Day, Peace Chant, Roaring Lion and True Quality completed the order. Saratoga Russell, who reportedly showed signs of colic, was scratched.