Field for De Francis Dash makes the grade

HORSE RACING Notebook

July 18, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Can the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash make the jump from a Grade III to Grade II race?

The six-furlong sprint has its fourth running next Sunday. The pressure is on Lenny Hale, Laurel/Pimlico vice president of racing, to try to attract as many graded-stakes winners to the race as possible. The number of top horses that compete translates into greater prestige for the race that ultimately means a better grading.

So far -- after preliminary entries were taken last week -- it seems like Hale has done his homework.

The expected De Francis lineup includes:

* Lion Cavern, the Grade II winner owned by Sheik Mohammed, trained by Billy Mott and ridden by Belmont Stakes winner Julie Krone. The horse is undefeated in two 1993 starts and might be the De Francis favorite. Lion Cavern is a brother to Gone West and was purchased by the sheik for $950,000 as a yearling.

* Meafara and Parisian Flight, probably the best two U.S. sprint mares. Meafara was second last year in the Breeders' Cup Sprint to Thirty Slews. Parisian Flight was the De Francis runner-up (to Superstrike).

* Montbrook and Secret Odds. Both 3-year-olds are Laurel-based. They are possibly the fastest horses in Maryland.

* Now Listen and Bolulight. These horses will be flying in from California. Now Listen is from the Bobby Frankel stable. Bolulight has won nearly $1 million, running mostly in Northern California.

* Senor Speedy and Flaming Emperor. Neither needs an introduction. Senor Speedy not only has won the General George Stakes at Laurel, he electrified the Preakness Day crowd at Pimlico when he came from off the pace and won the Maryland Budweiser Breeders' Cup.

Flaming Emperor, a 7-year-old, is in rare form, winning his last two starts over the Laurel strip, including a De Francis Dash prep last Friday.

Hale hopes a couple of other horses, possibly Friendly Lover, winner of the Finger Lakes Budweiser Breeders' Cup, and Birdonthewire, recent winner of the Tom Fool Stakes at Belmont Park over Fly So Free, will join the starting field.

The De Francis carries a $300,000 purse, making it the fourth-richest Maryland stakes behind the Preakness, Pimlico Special and International Mile.

Million under fire

Last week was not a good week for the Maryland Million.

First, it became public that the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association had withdrawn its funding from the race day program. The horsemen want more input in conditions for the races.

Secondly, owner/breeder Morty Rosen told the Maryland Racing Commission that "something has to be done" about the "prohibitive costs" of nominating horses to the program. Rosen said that astronomical bills,

from trainers, farriers, veterinarians and racing fees are driving owners out of the game.

He added that the Million -- open to horses bred out of state -- conflicts with the Maryland Fund Program, which is restricted to horses bred in the state.

Racing commissioner C. Frank Hopkins said he agreed with Rosen's criticisms. Hopkins said the Million program is run "autocratically and is outpricing itself" in the current depressed thoroughbred marketplace.

Sheiks avoid Keeneland

The Keeneland (Ky.) Summer Yearling Sales start tomorrow, but the Daily Racing Form reports that two of the three Maktoum brothers, usually the sales' leading buyers, will skip the auction this year.

The sale has been cut from three to two days and apparently lacks some of the quality of previous years.

Among the four Maryland-breds being sold are a half-sister to champion Safely Kept sired by Dayjur and a Forty Niner colt out of Safe At The Plate.

Meanwhile, Josh Taylor, manager of Maryland's new sales company, Horsemen's Bloodstock Services, said that the company already has 34 yearlings for its first sale at Laurel Race Course on Sept. 27.

Miscellaneous

The 90-day inter-track wagering experiment between the state's thoroughbred and harness tracks is scheduled to end Thursday. But expect the program to continue. No detailed analysis of the experiment will be released until the current Laurel meet is over on Aug. 3.

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