Laurel Park stakes card has $300,000 Dash, plus a few shots at redemption

Breeders' flops Toccet, Forest Music are entered

Horse Racing

November 14, 2003|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash deserves the spotlight with its $300,000 purse and Grade I rating. But before the De Francis Dash takes place at 4:33 p.m. tomorrow at Laurel Park, five other stakes featuring several intriguing horses will clamor for fans' attention.

Two horses that flopped in the Breeders' Cup will try to restore their reputations in easier races closer to home - assuming, that is, they both run.

And two of the best 2-year-olds in Maryland will make their last starts for local trainers before departing the state to compete for new owners.

One of the flops is Forest Music, an entrant in the $100,000 Selima Stakes, but the 2-year-old filly that blistered the Laurel track in her debut last month may bypass the race. Her owner, Michael Gill, said yesterday he'd likely wait until tomorrow before deciding

"Heaven help the next group of horses that meet this horse," Gill said. "I want to show everybody the real Forest Music."

But Gill also owns Absolute Rocks, another Selima entrant. He said that filly's trainer, Jerry Robb, told him he was sure she could win the race. If Robb's confidence cracks even the slightest, Gill said, then he will run Forest Music, instead.

After winning her six-furlong debut Oct. 8 in the fastest time ever for a filly or mare at that distance at Laurel, Forest Music found herself three weeks later on the other side of the country, racing against some of the world's best young fillies in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

She didn't seem to know what hit her. She streaked to the lead but then, around the final turn of the 1 1/16-race, began faltering, finally finishing last, 42 lengths behind the winner.

The day before, Gill predicted she would not only win but also run faster than the males in the Juvenile. He already seemed to have the gray filly etched into the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby.

"I was just disappointed that I'd gotten her beat," Gill said. "She's one of those fillies that come around once in your life. A horse like that shouldn't get beat like that. I made a mistake."

He acknowledged that she was short on experience and conditioning but that he believed she was so good he had to give her the chance.

Toccet is another horse whose owner hopes will redeem himself after a dismal showing at Santa Anita Park in California. The Laurel-based Toccet failed not only in the Breeders' Cup, when he finished next-to-last in the Turf, but also three weeks earlier at the same track, when he finished last in the Goodwood Handicap.

Toccet won four major stakes last year as a 2-year-old. This year, he has won one of four races. Dan Borislow, his owner, said the colt's performance in the $50,000 Hail Emperor Stakes would determine the caliber of future races. Plans call for Toccet to race again next year, Borislow said, before retiring to stud at Lane's End Farm in Kentucky.

The two outstanding juveniles that will race and then bid farewell to Maryland are Spectacular Moon, an undefeated 2-year-old filly, and Polish Rifle, an overpowering 2-year-old colt. Both have been sold to a pair of wealthy Texans.

Bill Heiligbrodt and Bob McNair, in the name of Heiligbrodt Racing and Stonerside Stable, bought the pair after the Laurel trainers John Alecci (Spectacular Moon) and Tony Dutrow (Polish Rifle) developed them into potential stars. The former captured the Grade II Astarita Stakes at Belmont Park for her fourth straight win, and the latter romped in the Maryland Million Nursery by nine lengths for his second easy win in three starts.

Brett Brinkman, racing manager for Heiligbrodt, said the horses would depart Maryland after their races (Spectacular Moon the Selima, Polish Rifle the Laurel Futurity) and join their new trainer, Steve Asmussen, at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Race data

What: Fall Festival of Racing. Six stakes worth $725,000

Where: Laurel Park

When: Saturday

Highlight: Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash

Grade: I

Purse: $300,000

Distance: Six furlongs

Post time: 4:33 p.m.

Favorite: Shake You Down

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