BC Sprint winner Thor's Echo the  morning line favorite in Sunday's  De Francis Dash.<br><a target="blank" href="http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/photo-store?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fpictopia.com%2Fperl%2Fgal%3Fprovider_id%3D368%26ptp_photo_id%3D633957%26%26ref%3Dstory">Order This Photo</a>

BC Sprint winner Thor's Echo the morning line favorite in Sunday's De Francis Dash.
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Alexander Barkoff

Thor's Echo 8-5 Choice in De Francis Dash

(from Laurel Park report)
Thor's Echo, upset winner of the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) on Nov. 4, is the 8-5 morning line favorite after drawing the outside post among nine entered in the $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) at Laurel Park Saturday.

After winning at Churchill Downs, the Doug O'Neill trainee has been training at Keeneland with visions of an Eclipse Award for top sprinter for the 4-year-old California bred Swiss Yodeler gelding.

"We just thought he's such a cool horse to us, and the Breeders' Cup was the pinnacle for all of us; we just thought, for the horse, how cool it would be for him to go into the books as the Eclipse Award winning sprinter," O'Neill said. "We just thought he had to do one more thing to really get the attention of the East Coast.

"We're just so happy that he's coming off two really big efforts and he hasn't missed a beat, held his weight good. We shod him and knock on wood, his feet couldn't be any better, so everything is in line for him to run another good race."

The Dash, one of just five grade I sprints at the six-furlong distance, tops Laurel's "Fall Festival of Racing" card that features eight added money races. They include the $125,000 Anne Arundel for 3-year-old fillies at a mile, the $125,000 Laurel Futurity for juveniles on the turf, and the $125,000 Selima for 2-year-old fillies on the lawn. The total purses for the 10-race card are $1,067,000.

In addition to his win in the Sprint, Thor's Echo has a pair of second place finishes in grade I sprints this year: Ancient Title Breeders' Cup at Oak Tree in October and the Golden Shaheen in Dubai in late March. Corey Nakatani will be in from Southern California to ride.

"We were so proud of him after the Dubai race that, if he never did anything else again, he was our champion," added O'Neill, who saddled Avanzado to a sixth place finish in the 2002 De Francis Dash. "But he jumped up and ran huge in the Ancient Title and again in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. The horse deserves those kind of honors if we were to do it one more time in the big race at Laurel.

Nightmare Affair (3-1) finished less than five lengths behind Thor's Echo in the Sprint. The Manny Azpur trainee finished in the money 31 times from 42 career starts and has four stakes victories at the distance this year. Ramon Dominguez, the Mid-Atlantic's top rider, has picked up the mount.

Attila's Storm (3-1), who has finished fifth and fourth in the last two runnings of the Breeders' Cup Sprint, will make the trip from the Belmont Park barn of trainer Richard Schosberg. The 4-year-old was third in the Vosburgh (gr. I) at the distance two starts back. Rosie Napravnik, Laurel's leading rider, will be aboard the son of Forest Wildcat.

"I think Attila Storm is a tremendously gifted speed horse," O'Neill said. "(Nightmare Affair) comes from off a little bit so, from that standpoint, we're hoping to be outside of Attila Storm and kind of play it by ear. Those are top horses and, any time you have a Grade I label on your race, you know you're going to be up against the best. We're just thinking we've got one of the best and, with a good clean trip, we ought to be very, very tough."

Multiple stakes winners Celtic Innis (12-1) and Crafty Schemer (15-1) headline the local contingent. The former won back-to-back added money races this summer before finishing a game second in the Maryland Million Sprint last month. The latter took the Dave's Friend Stakes at Laurel in front-running style three weeks ago.

$300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes (gr. I, Race 10, 4:37 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey, ML Odds
1. Diabolical (KY), 116, Mario Pino, 10/1
2. Crafty Schemer (KY), 118, Ryan Fogelsonger, 15/1
3. Celtic Innis (MD), 118, Horacio Karamanos, 12/1
4. Mach Speed (KY), 118, (No Rider), 20/1
5. Nightmare Affair (FL), 122, Ramon Dominguez, 3/1
6. Joey Carson (PA), 118, (No Rider), 12/1
7. Attila's Storm (KY), 118, A. R. Napravnik, 3/1
8. Coppertone Kid (KY), 116, Jeremy Rose, 20/1
9. Thor's Echo (CA), 122, Corey Nakatani, 8/5