From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Zayat Stables LLC’s Zee Bros, dismissed at odds of 29-1, proved to be the swiftest of all in the $350,000 Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash. The De Francis Dash was the marquee race in Saturday’s Fall Festival of Racing at Laurel Park, which featured six stakes.
D. Wayne Lukas trains the 4-year-old son of Brother Derek, who was making his fourth start for his Hall of Fame connections. Lukas sent Zee Bros out to win gate-to-wire over non-winners of two allowance company at Keeneland in his previous start. In his only other foray into Maryland, Zee Bros won the 2013 Chick Lang Stakes on the Preakness undercard while in Seth Benzel’s barn.
“Nobody does it better than Wayne when it comes to running in the big races,” said assistant trainer Tim Austin. “We got this horse right after the Saratoga meet. It took a few weeks to figure him out but in his last four workouts, I know they saw a big improvement in him. This horse is really doing well right now and we are glad to win this race for Mr. Zayat.”
Lukas also won the De Francis in 1999 with Yes It’s True.
Zee Bros completed the 6-furlong distance in 1:08.77, just under a second off the track record of 1:07.95.
Happy My Way backed off the speedy pace but rallied to take second. Bern Identity finished third. Dads Caps, the 9-5 betting choice, finished fourth.
Zee Bros paid $60.20 and topped a $471.20 exacta, a $1,557.20 trifecta and $4,669.10 superfecta.
Jose Ortiz, who was originally scheduled to ride La Verdad, picked up the mount for the injured Alex Cintron, who suffered multiple facial fractures, including a broken jaw, in a spill at Laurel Friday afternoon. He is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Two other mounts Cintron was scheduled to ride this afternoon, Stormin Monarcho (Richard Small Stakes) and Who’s In Town (Safely Kept Stakes), also won on the nine-race card.
“My agent called Mr. Lukas when La Verdad was scratched,” Ortiz said. “I was available because I had taken off of all of my mounts to come here today. I was very sorry to have to get this mount the way that I did and I wish Alex the best. Mr. Lukas told me that this horse had the talent and the speed, to make sure that we broke well and go after it. I kept him exactly where he needed to be and when I asked him he gave me all that I needed. I was pretty sure I had them beat about half-way down the stretch.”
It was the second De Francis win for Lukas, who also owns a half-dozen Preakness wins.
The field rocketed through a quarter mile in 22 seconds flat and a half in 44 4/5. That left habitual front-runner Happy My Way toiling in fourth, but that might have been best, said rider Joe Bravo. “This race really tested the speed,” Bravo said. “I thought we’ve got to try something. Down the stretch he really excelled.”
Bern Identity, who won the Dave’s Friend over the strip in September, rallied from sixth to earn third. “I thought he ran well,” said jockey C. C. Lopez. “No excuses. I tried to bide my time and make a run. Just not good enough.”
Dads Caps, the Grade 1 winner who went off thee 9-5 favorite, continued an odd habit. He has won four of seven starts at Aqueduct, with three second-place finishes. He remains winless in seven tries away from home.
“He just didn’t fire,” said rider Julian Pimentel. “We had a perfect trip. We couldn’t get to the winner. He just drew off.”
Favorite Tale, Heaven’s Runway, Smash and Grab and Mico Margarita completed the field. Local star Ben’s Cat was also scratched.
Introduced in 1990, the De Francis Dash is one of the elite 6-furlong sprints in the country with four of the previous 22 winners-Housebuster (1991), Cherokee Run (1994), Smoke Glacken (1997) and Thor’s Echo (2006)-earning Eclipse Award honors for champion sprinter.
Handle on the nine-race card was more than $3.2 million, a nearly 27 percent rise over last year’s De Francis card.