WONDRWHERECRAIGIS LOOKING FOR GRADED SCORE IN DE FRANCIS DASH
With two straight wins under his belt including a long-awaited first stakes triumph and returning to a track where he has yet to lose, the timing is ideal for Wondrwherecraigis to step back into graded company in Saturday’s $200,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) at Laurel Park.
The 30th running of the six-furlong De Francis for 3-year-olds and up headlines four stakes worth $500,000 in purses on a 11-race program that includes the $100,000 Weather Vane for fillies and mares 3 and up, also at six furlongs, and a pair of $100,000 stakes going one mile – the Polynesian for 3-year-olds and up and Twixt for females 3 and older.
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All four races are part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series. First race post time is 12:40 p.m.
Named for the late president and chairman of both Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course, the De Francis’ illustrious roster of winners includes Hall of Famer Housebuster, fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Benny the Bull, and Lite the Fuse, the race’s only two-time winner (1995-96) honored with his own stakes race in Maryland.
Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stables’ Wondrwherecraigis enters the De Francis off front-running scores, both at six furlongs, in a July optional claiming allowance at historic Pimlico Race Course and the Tale of the Cat Aug. 13 at Saratoga, by 8 ½ combined lengths.
The 4-year-old Munnings gelding has breezed twice since over Laurel’s newly reconstructed main track, most recently going a half-mile in 49 seconds Sept. 11. He broke his maiden and won an open allowance last spring to start his career in his previous Laurel races.
“It’s a new surface and he’s been training right along on it, so hopefully he runs as well as he did before,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “I think when a horse like this is doing well, you have to take a shot.”
Wondrwherecraigis ran second, beaten a head, in the Gold Fever last June at Belmont Park but was disqualified to third for interference. He made his graded debut running fourth to Yaupon in the Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga, after which he was given time off. He returned after nearly nine months with a three-length triumph May 14 at Pimlico on the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) undercard.
“He ran at Saratoga and I brought him back and kept him in training for a little bit,” Russell said. “He was just banged up. There was nothing specific. He had no specific injury, but who’s to say had we tried to push on that there wouldn’t have been.
“He’s a completely different animal now than he was a year ago, and that’s due to [the owners] letting me kick him out and do the right thing by him,” she added. “He’s been with us for some time, and he’s special to us. He’s a really cool horse around the barn. He’s quite a character, so the fact that he’s gotten so far along in his racing to be thinking about trying to win a graded-stakes with him, that in itself is pretty special.”
Wondrwherecraigis was ridden in all four of his local races by Russell’s husband, jockey Sheldon Russell, who is out indefinitely with a foot injury suffered Sept. 9. Jevian Toledo will be aboard from Post 5 in a field of six.
“You’re going to run against good horses when you’re running in good races,” Brittany Russell said. “He’s faced good horses and he’s been winning the right way. It’s not like he just gets the job done. He holds his own the right way.”