With Stars Missing, 18 Enter De Francis Dash

(from Laurel Park report)
Lacking a clear standout, Tiger Heart, runner-up in last month's Vosburgh (gr. I), is the 7-2 morning line favorite among 18 sprinters entered for Saturday's $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) at Laurel Park.

A full field of 14 is expected to start in the 16th annual Dash, one of just five grade I sprints at the six-furlong distance. It tops the "Fall Festival of Racing" card at Laurel that features eight added money races. First post is 12:15 p.m.

Richard Dutrow Jr. will saddle Tiger Heart, the chestnut son of Scatmandu who made only five starts last year and just five this year. Tiger Heart has had four workouts since running second behind the recently retired Taste of Paradise in the Vosburgh (gr. I) at Belmont Park on Oct. 1. His latest was a bullet drill in 1:01 for five furlongs at Aqueduct on Nov. 5.

"He's doing well and we'll probably ship in on Saturday," said Dutrow, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) with Silver Train three weeks ago. Edgar Prado, who won 24 riding titles at Laurel and Pimlico during the 1990s, will ride.

Also shipping in from New York are I'm The Tiger (4-1), Friendly Island (5-1) and Clever Electrician (20-1).

Trained by Bobby Frankel, I'm The Tiger finished second in the Alfred Vanderbilt (gr. II) at Saratoga in August. Friendly Island, from the powerful stable of Todd Pletcher, won the Hudson Handicap at Belmont last month, where he beat Clever Electrician by 4 ½ lengths after nearly a year off.

"We took a chip out of his right knee last year," said Pletcher, who is approaching the North American single-season record for earnings set in 2003 by Frankel. "He came back in the Hudson with a big effort and has been training well since."

Elusive Jazz (8-1), who finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint after being bumped at the start, will ship from Churchill Downs. The Bobby Barnett trainee, who won the Phoenix Breeders' Cup (gr. III) at Keeneland two starts back, drew the outside post.

"We'll have to take it," Barnett said. "We'll just have to see who's down on the inside."

Ministers Wild Cat (10-1) will ships from Woodbine with three straight sprint wins at short prices this spring.

The local contingent is headlined by a pair of runners that competed in this race a year ago: Gators N Bears and Abbondanza.

Gators N Bears (6-1) will make his final career start for owner-trainer Leo Nechamkin. The 5-year old, who will stand in 2006 at Maryland Stallion Station, will run in his third consecutive Dash. The son of Stormy Atlantic  has finished in the money 24 times in 31 career starts with earnings in excess of $800,000, the largest in the field.

"I don't like the 13 post," said Nechamkin. "This horse is set for one of the best races of his career so this is a shame. He's done everything you could ask of a racehorse. He's taken us places we would have never gone and has been a pleasure to own and train."

Abbondanza (20-1) prepped for the 2005 Dash by winning the Dave's Friend on Oct. 29, beating Forest Park, Dale's Prospect and Saay Mi Name in a blanket finish. It was just the second win of the year for the Tim Tullock trainee who competed in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and De Francis Dash a year ago. Enrique Jurado, who was aboard the win in the Dave's Friend, retains the mount.

"He's improved a lot in the last month," said Tullock. "It took us most of the year to get him right."

Attila's Storm, fourth in last month's Breeders' Cup Sprint, is on the also eligible list because the 3-year old has earned only $153,128 in the last two years.

$300,000 De Francis Dash (gr. I, Race 10, 4:40 p.m.), 3 & up, 6 furlongs
PP. HORSE, WEIGHT, JOCKEY< ml="" odds="" />
1. Saay Mi Name (MD), 118, Christopher VanHassel, 15/1
2. Who's the Cowboy (NJ), 116, Edwin L. King, Jr., 30/1
3. Ministers Wild Cat (KY), 118, Raymond B. Sabourin, 10/1
4. Forest Park (KY), 118, Mario G. Pino, 12/1
5. Tiger Heart (KY), 118, Edgar S. Prado, 7/2
6. Dale's Prospect (MD), 118, Ryan Fogelsonger, 20/1
7. I'm the Tiger (KY), 118, Jerry D. Bailey, 4/1
8. Clever Electrician (NY), 118, Jeremy Rose, 20/1
9. Friendly Island (NY), 118, John R. Velazquez, 5/1
10. Wild Tale (KY), 118, Rene R. Douglas, 15/1
11. Sensibly Chic (NY), 115, Enrique M. Jurado, 30/1
12. Abbondanza (FL), 118, Enrique M. Jurado, 20/1
13. Gators N Bears (NJ), 118, Abel Castellano, Jr., 6/1
14. Elusive Jazz (KY), 122, Eibar Coa, 8/1
Also Eligible
15. Attila's Storm (KY), 118, Ramon A. Dominguez, 6/1
16. Midnight Express (NJ), 118, Michael C. Baze, 30/1
17. Gold Cluster (KY), 118, Jose C. Caraballo, 30/1
18. Blown Audit (MD), 116, Richard Monterrey, 50/1