Plentiful noms for De Francis, supporting stakes
From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Grade 1 winners Mind Your Biscuits and El Deal and multiple graded stakes winners Whitmore and X Y Jet are among 24 horses nominated to the $250,000 Xpressbet Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Saturday, Sept. 16 at Laurel Park.
The 26th running of the six-furlong De Francis for sprinters 3 and up is one of seven stakes, six contested over Laurel’s world-class turf course, worth $900,000 in purses on the Fall Festival of Racing program that drew a total of 204 nominations.
Honoring the late owner of Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course, the De Francis was moved up this year from its traditional mid-November spot on the Maryland racing calendar, making it an attractive option for horses pointing to the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
Past winners of the De Francis, which dates back to 1990, include Hall of Famer Housebuster and fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Benny the Bull.
Mind Your Biscuits had a two-race win streak snapped when sixth behind 2016 sprint champion Drefong in the Forego (G1) Aug. 26 at Saratoga. Second by a neck in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) to open his 4-year-old year after capping his sophomore season winning the Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita, the Posse colt won the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) in March.
Albert and Michelle Crawford’s El Deal has reeled off three consecutive front-running victories, romping by eight lengths in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) July 29 at Saratoga last out. The 5-year-old son of Munnings is 7-for-11 lifetime at the De Francis distance.
Whitmore has not raced since rallying to be third in the True North (G2) June 9 at Belmont Park, his first loss in six races. Cut back to sprint distances by trainer Ron Moquett following a 19th-place finish in the 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1), Whitmore won five races in a row including the Maryland Sprint (G3) May 20 at Pimlico and the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 15 at Oaklawn Park.
X Y Jet, like El Deal trained by Jorge Navarro, has not raced since finishing third as the favorite after setting the pace in last year’s De Francis Dash Nov. 19. The speedy Kantharos gelding won five straight races in 2015-16 including the Mr. Prospector (G3) and Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3).
Also nominated are Grade 2 winner Favorite Tale, Grade 3 winning millionaire Stallwalkin’ Dude, multiple stakes winners Awesome Banner, Celtic Chaos, Chublicious, John Jones, Proforma and Weekend Hideaway.
The $150,000 All Along for fillies and mares 3 and up at 1 1/16 miles, previously run as the Lady Baltimore, tops six turf stakes on the De Francis undercard. It attracted 19 nominations including Grade 2 winner On Leave from Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who won last year’s Lady Baltimore with Onus; Grade 3 winner Pricedtoperfection and Juno, a multiple Group 1 winner in Brazil winless in eight North American starts.
The $100,000 Sensible Lady Turf Dash for fillies and mares 3 and up at six furlongs was the most popular race with a total of 39 nominations led by Grade 1 winner Yellow Agate, while the $100,000 Laurel Dash for 3-year-olds, also at six furlongs, attracted 27 nominations.
Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies winner Ultima D is among 37 nominations for the $100,000 Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds and 33 nominees to the $100,000 Selima for 2-year-old fillies.
The $100,000 Laurel Turf Cup at 1 ½ miles for 3-year-olds and up drew 25 nominations led by multiple Grade 3 winner Holiday Star, based at the Fair Hill Training Center with trainer Graham Motion, and 2015 Laurel Turf Cup winner St. Albans Boy.