Benny the Bull pulls away in the De Francis Memorial Dash.

Benny the Bull pulls away in the De Francis Memorial Dash.

Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

Benny the Bull Powers to Dash Score

Benny the Bull won the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park on Nov. 24

Benny the Bull saved ground in the early going, angled four-wide entering the lane and then pulled away for a 1 ¼-length victory in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Laurel Park Nov. 24, scoring the first graded stakes win of his career.

Entering off a fourth place finish in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I), the 4-year-old Lucky Lionel colt won for the third time this year and the fifth time in 12 lifetime starts.

Tackling the six-furlong sprint as the betting favorite, Benny the Bull won for the first time since trainer Rick Dutrow took over in July. Talent Search was second, 2 ½ lengths in front of Miraculous Miss, the only filly in the field of eight.

Handled patiently by Edgar Prado, Benny the Bull was fifth after a half-mile, in back of Talent Search, High Finance, stablemate Holly Time, and Will He Shine. Talent Search set the pace, posting fractions of :22.64 and :45.72.

Talent Search, ridden by Ryan Fogelsonger, continued to lead by two lengths at the top of the stretch, but Benny the Bull, who had begun to make his move around the turn, was now second with a full head of steam. By the time they reached the sixteenth pole Benny the Bull had put a head in front. He had all the momentum in the final yards, finishing strongly in 1:09.86.

“Sometimes I have to ride him very hard, but today I didn’t,” said Prado, who won four races on the card. “He did it all on his own. I encouraged my horse but I didn’t really beat him up. I saved something for the end.”

Benny the Bull paid $4.60 to win. The exacta (1-2) was worth $12.60.

Prior to the Breeders’ Cup, Benny the Bull was second to Midnight Lute in the Forego Handicap (gr. I)  on Sept. 1, and fourth in the July 28 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II), both at Saratoga. He won the Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows in June.

Bred in Florida by Tomoka Farms, Benny the Bull is out of the Birdonthewire mare Comet Cat. He was purchased by Gregg James, IEAH Stables, Pegasus Holding Group Stables and Andrew Cohen for $38,000 at the Keeneland 2004 September Yearling Sale.

“I was the original owner prior to syndicating him,” James said. “My daughter Erika named him after a cartoon character on Dora the Explorer.”

Dutrow’s father, Dick, won the De Francis Dash twice with Lite the Fuse (1995-96).

(Chart, Equibase)