The De Francis Dash will once again be televised by ABC, Maryland track officials announced yesterday.
But there are two important changes for this summer's running of the $300,000 sprint stakes.
The race will be run a month earlier, on Saturday, July 20, and it will be run at Laurel.
For the initial running last year, the race was held at Pimlico and was run Aug. 18, the same day as the Travers Stakes, which ABC also televised from Saratoga.
But it was also the same day that another Saratoga stakes, the King's Bishop, drew eventual champion sprinter Housebuster, away from the De Francis Dash.
Even though the De Francis Dash had a much larger purse than the King's Bishop, owners still prefer showcasing their top horses at Saratoga in August.
Maryland track officials decided this year to card their big sprint well ahead of the Saratoga race. Housebuster, beaten by Unbridled in his '91 debut at Gulfstream in the Deputy Minister Handicap March 16, is expected to run soon at Keeneland. He could face the 1989 sprint champion, Safely Kept, in the De Francis Dash.
Safely Kept finished fourth in the De Francis race last year, when regular rider Craig Perret was replaced by Chris Antley. The 5-year-old mare is now in training at Garden State Park, but has yet to race this year.
Northern Wolf, who won the first running of the De Francis Dash, is retired to stud.
The De Francis Dash is second only to the $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Sprint as the richest sprint in the country.
Two 9-furlong stakes are scheduled at Pimlico this weekend. The Deputed Testamony Stakes, on Saturday, is for Maryland-bred 3-year-olds and Sunday's John B. Campbell Handicap is for older horses.
Wayne Lukas has four of the five Campbell topweights. They are Greydar at 120 pounds; Profit Key, 119; Shy Tom, 117; and Sports View, 116.
Nancy Heil, who saddled fifth-place Preakness finisher Fighting Notion last year, has an interesting candidate for the Deputed Testamony.
He is Aaron's Halo, a Sunny's Halo colt who broke his maiden two weeks ago in a 6-furlong sprint at Aqueduct.
Since then Mike Luzzi worked the horse a mile at the Bowie Training Center and said he wants to ride him in the stakes. Heil said the horse wants to run long "but I might be jumping the gun a little bit by stretching him out to 9 furlongs. But the race is restricted to Maryland-breds, and should have a small field."
Tank and Haymaker are expected to be the favorites.