From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Thirty-six sprinters have been nominated to the 22nd running of the $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park next Saturday, Sept. 21. The fall meeting begins two days earlier after a 14-week break from live racing at the major Maryland tracks.
The Fall Festival of Racing card also features five open stakes races on the turf and the Jameela Stakes for Maryland-breds. The Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds has 33 nominees. The Selima Stakes for 2-year-old fillies attracted 35 pre-entries. The Laurel Dash drew 42 nominations. The Lady Baltimore Stakes for fillies and mares has 57 nominations. The 1-1/2 mile Laurel Turf Cup features 53 nominations. The Jameela garnered 26 nominations.
Introduced in 1990, the De Francis Dash is one of the elite six-furlong sprints in the country with four of the 21 winners-Housebuster (1991), Cherokee Run (1994), Smoke Glacken (1997) and Thor’s Echo (2006)-earning Eclipse Award honors for champion sprinter.
Among those pre-entered are horses from the powerful barns of D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen.
Maryland Jockey Club stakes coordinator Coley Blind says Broad Rule, Il Villano, Ribo Bobo, Royal Currier, Sage Valley, Saturday’s Charm and Service for Ten are being pointed to Laurel’s most important race. The connections of another half-dozen horses are also considering the race.
“The numbers look good but we have to see how many actually hit the entry box on Wednesday,” Blind said. “It will interesting to see what happens. I would like to see a horse like Brigand run. He won a stakes here last fall and ran really well in the General George.”
Dance to Bristol is an intriguing nomination. The Bowie-based filly has won seven consecutive races this year, including three graded races in New York this summer. The Ollie Figgins trainee qualified for an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in November at Santa Anita Park with a victory in the Ballerina Stakes (G1) at Saratoga last month. Figgins is expected to run the 4-year-old daughter of Speightstown in the $300,000 Gallant Bloom Stakes (G2) for fillies and mares at Belmont Park on the same day as the De Francis Dash.
“My pitch to Ollie was that the Gallant Bloom is a handicap race. Looking at the race she will probably be carrying no less than 124 pounds,” added Blind. “In our race because she gets a three-pound weight allowance for being a filly and another two for a condition, she will be carrying 119. I think she has a legitimate shot in here to beat the boys and that would go a long way towards winning an Eclipse Award if she runs well at the Breeders’ Cup because she already has enough graded wins this year. But Ollie is going to do what is right for the horse and he knows what the best spot is for her.”
Ben’s Cat was nominated to the De Francis Dash but is expected to compete in the Laurel Dash. One of the top turf sprinters in the country, the King Leatherbury homebred is 8-of-12 on the dirt, including three stakes scores.
Post time for the card will be 1:10 p.m.
In addition to the racing, Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez, who retired in June due to the severity of injuries sustained in a spill at Aqueduct in January, will make a special appearance. A regular rider at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course for five years early in his career, Dominguez will be saluted with a winners’ circle presentation after the second race. The Maryland Jockey Club will make a donation to Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) in his name. Dominguez will then conduct an autograph session in the grandstand from 2-3 p.m.
The Venezuela native arrived in Maryland in 2000 and won 1,012 races at the major Maryland tracks over the next five years, including 297 victories in 2001 when he finished atop the standings at all four meets. He finished first or second in the yearly jockey standings four times during his time in the Maryland colony. In 2003, he earned his first Grade 1 score when he guided A Huevo to victory in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.
All 31 stakes races during the Laurel Park meet will take place on six Saturday’s: September 21 (seven stakes), October 19 (nine), November 9 (four), November 16 (four), December 7 (four) and December 28 (three).
A Super High 5 wager will be offered exclusively on the stakes races on the special stakes Saturdays. The Super High 5 will be a $1.00 minimum wager, with a takeout 25.75%, and will be limited to stakes races that have a minimum of seven different betting interests. To win, bettors must select the first five finishers in exact order in a single race. If there are no correct tickets, the entire net pool (money wagered minus takeout) is carried over to the next race that offers the Super High 5. Any potential accumulated carryover is paid out on the last Super High 5 wager of the meet even if there are no perfect tickets. In that case the best-of fives are paid.