DeFrancis Dash returns at Laurel Park

October 24, 2009 | Gary Quill

After a one year hiatus, the Grade 1 race that honors the memory of Frank J. DeFrancis, who passed away in 1989 during the height of his 5+ years as CEO of Laurel Park, and later Pimlico Race Course, has attracted a quality field of nine runners. The fact that the race is contested at 6 furlongs (aka a sprint race) is appropriate because this man did more for thoroughbred horse racing in the state of Maryland is a short period of time, than Magna Entertainment and all previous owners of the two Maryland mile tracks dating back to the late 1930’s, when legendary Alfred G. Vanderbilt II arranged the famous match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral.

It is quite a diverse and well travelled group who will break from the gate for the 19th running of the DeFrancis Dash. They have competed at more than 20 different tracks across the country and abroad. Considering the weather forecast calls for a 50% chance of rain, it would typically cause havoc for advanced handicappers to provide their opinion, not knowing if the track will be dry fast or sloppy. Luckily with this field, it doesn’t appear that anyone’s chances would be greatly enhanced or hindered by a sloppy track.

Here’s my humble analysis of the $300,000 DeFrancis Dash, which is the 9th race on the 10 race card. First Post is 1:10pm.

#6 – Peace Chant  (12-1; W. Phipps / J. Chavez)

A CA shipper/synthetic surface castoff who is 4 for 7 on natural dirt, had traffic issues in the stretch in his Gr. 1 Forego effort at 7 furlongs at 15-1, finishing 10th by 7, where the top 3 finishers that day are scheduled to run in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 7th.   


# 9 – Ah Day (12-1; K.T. Leatherbury / S. Russell)

Talk about your Home Field Advantage? He’s 8 for 14 at Laurel with 3 seconds and a third to boot. His deep closing running style fits perfectly in a race that is sure to clock quick early fractions. At 6 he might be in the twilight of his career, but 7 wins in 10 efforts at today’s distance speaks volumes for his chances at a nice price.


# 1 – Vineyard Haven  (8-5; S. Bin Suroor / A. Garcia)

Former KY Derby hopeful in the spring, this 3 year old faces his elders for the first time. He has the class and has been working great in the A.M. since his disqualification from first to second in the Gr. 1 Kings Bishop at Saratoga 7 weeks ago.

Too much speed in the race for a wire-to-wire winner today.           


# 5 – True Quality  (5-1; R. Sedlacek / C.C. Lopez)

Captured the General George at Laurel in February in lone try on this surface. He has plenty of graded stakes experience to be a Player if he doesn’t get in a speed dual early on. Faded to 6th by 4 lengths in Gr. 1 Forego last out at 28-1.    


# 2 – Roaring Lion  (6-1; B. Levine /  E. Trujillo)

Trainer Bruce Levine has pushed all the right buttons (3 for 3 in 2009) when taking over the duties for this one after a one year layoff. Most recent victory came in the MD Million Sprint Handicap last month. Tremendous upside potential for initial Gr. 1 effort.


# 4 – Fleet Valid  (9-2; S. Volk / P. Morales)

First time in graded stakes, has been a life-long Claimer until his last two low-level stakes victories at Monmouth Park. With Montbrook and Valid Appeal is his bloodlines, a sloppy track would increase his chances.  


# 3 – Ravalo  (8-1; D. Barr / J. Rose)

This gypsy makes his 7th start of 2009 at 7 different tracks. No stranger to Laurel Park, but winless in 4 starts while being 13 for 23 elsewhere. This 5 year old gelding’s stalking-style will need a perfect trip to be first under the wire today.


# 7 – Sacred Journey  (15-1; A. Dutrow / D. Cohen)

In 2008 at 3, wasn’t good enough in graded Derby preps at Oaklawn. 2009 campaign has been more successful (3 wins, 2 seconds in 6 starts), but all in claimer and allowance events since Anthony Dutrow picked up training duties.


# 8 – Saratoga Russell  (20-1; M. Hushion / C. Hill)

High hopes as a 3 year old in 2008, he was betting favorite in Gotham, setting pace but finishing 8th by 38. Hence, his career as a sprinter was born. First graded stakes try since Gotham points to a pace setting effort but he’ll have plenty of company early which will spell doom in the stretch.


Enjoy thoroughbred horse racing today, and share the fun with a friend.