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Grade 3 winner New York Central, freshened off a disappointing effort last time out, returns to Maryland with a chance to rediscover his winning form in Saturday's $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) at Laurel Park.
The 28th running of the six-furlong De Francis for sprinters 3 and up highlights eight stakes worth $1.3 million purses during Round 1 of September to Remember Stakes Festival that also features the return of Grade 1 winner Glorious Empire in the $200,000 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G3).
Five other stakes will also be contested over Laurel's world-class turf course - the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Laurel Futurity and $200,000 Selima for 2-year-olds; $150,000 Bald Eagle Derby presented by B&B Commercial Interiors for 3-year-olds going 1 ½ miles; and $100,000 Laurel Dash presented by Fidelity First and Blackwell Real Estate and $100,000 Sensible Lady Turf Dash, each 5 ½-furlong sprints for 3-year-olds and up.
Completing the stakes action is the inaugural $100,000 Warrior's Reward Weather Vane for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs on the main track. Laurel will open its doors at 11 a.m. with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. The De Francis is carded as Race 8 of 12 with a 4 p.m. post.
Race 8 at Laurel Park on Saturday, September 21 - Post 4:00 PM
|1||Wonderful Light||8-1||Angel Cruz
|2||Killybegs Captain||9-2||Eric Cancel
|John Terranova II|
|4||Bon Raison||5-1||Joey Martinez
|6||He Hate Me||3-1||Manuel Franco
|7||New York Central||5-2||Feargal Lynch
|8||Old Time Revival||20-1||Victor Carrasco
Named for the late president and chairman of both Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, and not run in 2008 or 2010, the De Francis' illustrious roster of past 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).
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and Laurel-based jockey Feargal Lynch teamed up to win last year's De Francis with Switzerland, and they unite again this year with New York Central. In his only previous visit to Maryland, the 4-year-old Tapit colt was a 1 ¾-length winner of the six-furlong Maryland Sprint (G3) on the Preakness (G1) undercard May 18 at Pimlico in a stakes-record 1:08.74.
"He's had a little freshening after his last race and he's done well," WinStar President and CEO Elliott Walden said. "He's training well and he's coming back to Maryland, where he had his best day this year. We're looking forward to it."
New York Central followed the Maryland Sprint finishing last of seven in the seven-furlong John A. Nerud (G2) July 6 at Belmont Park, just the third time in 10 lifetime starts he ran worse than third. He has worked three times this month over Saratoga's training track, most recently going a half-mile in 49.14 seconds Monday, ranking fifth of 21 horses.
"It was really hot the day he ran in New York and he was kind of down on the inside and didn't really get into a rhythm to run his race," Walden said. "He's always been a talented horse. We just felt the race at Pimlico was tailor-made for him. [Jockey] Ricardo [Santana Jr.] gave him a super ride, and hopefully he'll get a good, stalking trip again and have similar results on Saturday."
Sagamore Farm's He Hate Me can become just the fourth Maryland-bred to win the De Francis following Northern Wolf (1990), Smoke Glacken (1997) and Action Andy (2012). Sagamore, the historic Glyndon, Md. racing and breeding operation founded in 1925 and owned by Alfred G. Vanderbilt from 1933-86, and trainer Stanley Hough are each looking for their first De Francis victory.
"We're thrilled to be able to run in this race. It's what you work for, especially working with Sagamore. Whatever we can do in Maryland is great," Hough said. "I think He Hate Me will run a good race. We hope to make Sagamore proud."
He Hate Me won his only two starts as a juvenile in 2017 capped by the Tremont Stakes at Belmont. His career since has been interrupted by injuries and absences, but he has put together a solid 2019 campaign of two wins, two seconds and a third in six starts, one more than he had in his first two racing seasons combined.
"He was a nice 2-year-old that showed a lot of promise. He had to have knee surgery and came back and had another little problem. But now as a 4-year-old he seems to be coming around again, so I think he's come into form pretty well," Hough said. "He's a very honest horse. I think he'll be a nice 5-year-old. I only plan to run him a time or two more this year and then give him a little break and look forward to next year."
He Hate Me, by Algorithms, is two-for-five lifetime at six furlongs, winning an optional claiming allowance by 2 ¼ lengths July 19 and running second by less than a length to Bon Raison in the Tale of the Cat Stakes Aug. 9, both at Saratoga. In his only career try at Laurel, he was fourth behind Still Having Fun in the 2018 Miracle Wood.
"He's been running good. He ran great last time at Saratoga. He got off a step slow and then kind of rushed up there. I thought he might have been the best horse that day," Hough said. "He's a little more comfortable tracking horses and making a little run. That seems to be where he's at his best."
Bon Raison, owned and now trained by Peter Tournas, will be making his 31st career start and sixth in graded company in the De Francis. Claimed last summer at Saratoga, the 4-year-old has gone on to win a pair of stakes including the 6 ½-furlong Peeping Tom in March at Aqueduct.
Fifth behind win machine Mitole in the Forego (G1) Aug. 24 at Saratoga, Bon Raison comes back 17 days after rallying from well back to be second by a half-length in the Bensalem Stakes Sept. 2 at Parx.
"He's one of those horses that you get blessed with once in a while that enjoys being on the track running more than he does sitting in the stall resting. He kind of needs to be out there," Tournas said. "He wants it. If you ever see him out in the paddock, he's just happy to be running, happy to be competing.
"He loves to run and if we can get the right races for him, we love to run him," he added. "This seems like it's a good fit for him. I'd love to see how he does down that long Laurel stretch. I think this is a good place for him to run."
Nancy Lavrich and Ronald Zielinski's Altissimo is a 16-time winner from 37 lifetime races, including eight stakes wins, the most recent coming in the July 13 Hockessin at Delaware Park. The Ohio-bred son of Noble Causeway returned to his home base to run second in the Honey Jay Stakes Aug. 10 at Thistledown last time out.
Altissimo, which means "highest" in Italian, has raced once over Laurel's main track, beaten a head when second to Colonel Sharp in the six-furlong Dave's Friend last December. Regular rider Christian Pilares comes in for the mount.
"He just seems to have that natural ability. Everything he's done so far, he's done easily," trainer Richard Zielinski said. "I really think he's a better horse if he can come from off the pace. He's a little bit of a temperamental kind of horse and the groom that takes care of him I think really got in his head and figured him out, how to make him happy and it's worked."
Completing the De Francis field are Killybegs Captain, winner of the Pelican Stakes Feb. 16 who ran third in both the Forego and Nerud and fourth in the Tale of the Cat; Wonderful Light, a winner of two straight since finishing second in the five-furlong Rumson Stakes July 4 at Monmouth Park; Laurel-based Old Time Revival, whose three career wins have come in 13 tries over his home track; and stakes-placed Sparticle, racing first off the claim for trainer Carl O'Callaghan.
Peter Tournas' claimer-turned-multiple stakes winner Bon Raison returned to the work tab Saturday morning in New York ahead of an anticipated start in the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Sept. 21 at Laurel Park.
The 28th running of the six-furlong De Francis for 3-year-olds and up highlights eight stakes worth $1.3 million in purses that comprise Round 1 of Laurel's September to Remember Stakes Festival.
Bon Raison would be making his 31st career start in the De Francis, won during its illustrious history by such stars as Hall of Famer Housebuster and fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor's Echo and Benny the Bull.
His work Saturday at Belmont Park comes 12 days following a runner-up finish in the six-furlong Bensalem Stakes at Parx, the 15th race of Bon Raison's 2019 campaign. He was fifth in a pair of graded-stakes this summer, the Forego (G1) Aug. 24 at Saratoga and John A. Nerud (G2) July 6 at Belmont.
"We breezed him an easy five-eighths in 1:03," Tournas said. "He came out pretty well, so we're thinking about it. If everything goes perfect, he's going to go in. He's looking great, so we're thinking it's a go.
"He loves to run, and if we can get the right races for him we'd love to run him," he added. "This seems like it's a good fit for him. I'd love to see how he does down that Laurel stretch. I think this is a good place for him to run."
Bon Raison, a 4-year-old son of Raison d'Etat originally bred and owned by Calumet Farm, made a powerful run on the far outside in the Bensalem before winding up a half-length short of Grade 3 winner Engage.
"That's why we're thinking about Laurel. You guys have a nice, beautiful stretch over there," Tournas said. "We're thinking with a little bit of a longer stretch, we can compete with pretty much anyone. So, we're coming down to Laurel to see what we can do against those guys."
Claimed for $16,000 last summer at Saratoga, Bon Raison has won a pair of stakes this year - the 6 ½-furlong Peeping Tom March 30 at Aqueduct and Saratoga's six-furlong Tale of the Cat Aug. 9. Winless in five previous graded-stakes attempts, he has hit the board 18 times in with earnings approaching $500,000.
"He definitely tries hard," Tournas said. "For the most part, with the right ride, he'll give you 100 percent all the time."
Sagamore Farm's He Hate Me, second to Bon Raison in the Tale of the Cat, is also among 34 nominees to the De Francis. A stakes winner at 2 that was fourth in the 2018 Miracle Wood for 3-year-olds at Laurel, the gelded son of Algorithms worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 Saturday at Churchill Downs for trainer Stanley Hough, ranking 10th of 25 horses.
Curragh Stables' De Francis nominee Killybegs Captain breezed a half-mile in 48.56 seconds Saturday over Belmont's main track, his first work since running third behind win machine Mitole in the seven-furlong Forego. Trained by John Terranova, 5-year-old Killybegs Captain ran fourth in the Tale of the Cat.
Among horses pointing to the De Francis are 2019 Maryland Handicap (G3) winner New York Central, 2018 Swale (G3) winner Strike Power, and multiple graded-stakes placed Petrov, nearing $600,000 in purse earnings. Grade 1 winners Firenze Fire and Whitmore are also nominated.
Millionaire Grade 1 winners Firenze Fire and Whitmore and graded-stakes winning sprinters Diamond Oops, New York Central, Strike Power and Uncontested are among 24 horses nominated to the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Saturday, Sept. 21 at Laurel Park.
The 28th running of the six-furlong De Francis for 3-year-olds and up highlights Round 1 of the September to Remember Stakes Festival featuring eight stakes worth $1.3 million in purses that drew a total of 244 nominations, including 28 for the $200,000 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G3), led by Grade 1 winners Divisidero and Glorious Empire and defending champion Doctor Mounty.
Honoring the late owner of Laurel and legendary Pimlico Race Course, the De Francis' roster of past winners includes Hall of Famer Housebuster and fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor's Echo and Benny the Bull.
Mr. Amore Stable's homebred Firenze Fire earned his Grade 1 triumph going a mile in the 2017 Champagne and is a four-time Grade 3 winner including last fall's Gallant Bob and the May 11 Runhappy Stakes at six furlongs, where he is three-for-five lifetime. Last out he was second to win machine Mitole in the Forego (G1) Aug. 24 at Saratoga and has seven wins and nearly $1.4 million in earnings from 19 starts.
Co-owned by Robert LaPenta, trainer Ron Moquett and Head of Plains Partners' Whitmore was last seen finishing eighth in the 6 ½-furlong True North (G2) June 8 at Belmont Park. Sporting a career bankroll of more than $2.5 million, he has one win in four tries this year after running second to two-time champion Roy H in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) last fall, and was placed second in the 2017 De Francis in his only race in Maryland.
LaPenta has a second nominee in 5-year-old Uncontested, co-owned with Harry Rosenblum. Uncontested has won each of his two previous starts at Laurel, including a front-running triumph in the seven-furlong General George (G3) Feb. 16. In his second start since being moved to trainer Tom Amoss, he went gate-to-wire for a two-length allowance score Aug. 15 at Saratoga.
Most recently second at 29-1 behind Imperial Hint's track record-setting performance in the A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) July 27 at Saratoga, Diamond Oops won the Smile Sprint (G3) June 29 at Gulfstream Park. New York Central, exiting a seventh-place finish in the John A. Nerud (G2) July 6, has never raced at Laurel but became a graded winner with his decisive triumph in the Maryland Sprint (G3) May 18 on the Preakness (G1) undercard at Pimlico Race Course.
Second in the True North and fifth in the Vanderbilt, Strike Power came up empty in his most recent effort, the 5 ½-furlong Lucky Coin over Saratoga's turf. Last year, the son of sprint champion Speightstown won the Swale (G3) and was second in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Also nominated are Killybegs Captain, third in last month's Forego; Ohio-bred Altissimo, a 16-time career winner, eight of them in stakes; and fellow stakes winners Bon Raison, Old Time Revival and Wilbo.
The one-mile BWI Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up on Laurel's world-class grass course is being targeted as the seasonal debut for Matt Schera's Glorious Empire, a 2018 Eclipse Award finalist for champion male turf horse that has not raced since wiring a Fort Lauderdale (G2) field last December at Gulfstream where all 13 runners were graded-stakes winners. Glorious Empire went four-for-six last year, also winning the Sword Dancer (G1) and Bowling Green (G2), and sits less than $34,000 from millionaire status.
Gunpowder Farms and Brereton C. Jones' Divisdero has bankrolled $1.6 million in purse earnings from 28 career starts, most recently winning the one-mile Red Bank (G3) by a length Sept. 1 at Monmouth Park. Second to Doctor Mounty in the Prince George's County June 16 in his only previous try at Laurel, the 7-year-old son of Kitten's Joy won the Turf Classic (G1) in 2016 and 2017 and gave trainer Kelly Rubley her first graded triumph in the 2018 Arlington Handicap (G3).
Doctor Mounty, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for Larry Pratt and Dave Alden, won the 1 1/16-mile Prince George's County to give him five wins from eight tries at Laurel, with one second and one third. His nose victory over favored Projected in last year's BWI Turf Cup came at odds of 26-1.
Other prominent nominees are Blacktype, an earner of $973,335 whose three career Grade 2 wins include the 2016 Commonwealth Turf Cup at Laurel; graded-stakes winners Caribou Club, Golden Brown, Real Story, Synchrony and 2016 Maryland-bred Horse of the Year Just Howard; and Abiding Star, John Jones and O Dionysus, all stakes winners on both turf and dirt.
Juveniles will share the spotlight in the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds and $200,000 Selima presented by Nila Bags for 2-year-old fillies, both at 1 1/16 miles on the grass. Field Pass and Andesite, second and third, respectively, in Saratoga's Aug. 28 With Anticipation (G3), and stakes winners Big City Bob, Doc Boy and Embolden top 34 Futurity nominees, while the Selima's 31 nominations include Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies winner Jezebel's Kitten and the top three finishers from the Sept. 1 Sorority at Monmouth Park - Micheline, Rising Bella and Sky Kitten.
Returning for its second year, the $150,000 Bald Eagle Derby presented by B & B Commercial Interiors for 3-year-olds going 1 ½ miles on the turf attracted 22 nominations, led by Global Access, winner of the Saranac (G3) Aug. 31 at Saratoga; Jais's Solitude and Credit Swap, respectively second and third in the Virginia Derby (G3) the same day at Colonial Downs; 2018 Grey (G3) winner Solidify; and multiple stakes winner Uncle Benny, second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) last fall.
Most popular among horsemen with 39 nominations was the $100,000 Laurel Dash presented by Fidelity First and Blackwell Real Estate, a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds and up. Among them are Wet Your Whistle, winner of the Highlander (G1) June 29 at Woodbine for trainer Mike Trombetta; Dubini and Fielder, who ran 2-3, respectively, in last year's Dash; Dirty, record-setting winner of the King T. Leatherbury Stakes April 20 at Laurel; South African Group 1 winner Mustaaqeem; and Shekky Shebaz, who pushed his win streak to two in the Aug. 30 Lucky Coin at Saratoga.
The $100,000 Sensible Lady Turf Dash for fillies and mares 3 and older, also at 5 ½ furlongs, saw 37 horses nominated including defending champion Fire Key, whose eighth and most recent win came in the License Fee Stakes April 28 at Belmont Park. Minit to Stardom, gate-to-wiere winner of the Honorable Miss (G2) July 24 at Saratoga; Goldwood, a winner of four consecutive stakes for trainer Jorge Duarte Jr., and Uruguayan Group 2 winner Holy Legal are also nominated.
Completing the Sept. 21 stakes lineup is the inaugural $100,000 Warrior's Reward Weather Vane for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs on the main track. A Bit of Both, a stakes winner on dirt and turf; stakes winners Adventurous Lady, Bye Bye J, Fancy Dress Party, Gotta Be Strong, Introduced, Needs Supervision and Meadow Dance, third in the 2019 Alcibiades (G1) are among 29 nominations.
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