When Yes It's True runs in the $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park today, jockey Jerry Bailey hopes the race will be less eventful than the colt's most recent appearance in Maryland.
Bailey was aboard Yes It's True in a stakes race on Preakness day, and as he turned into the stretch with a clear lead, "I couldn't believe my eyes," Bailey said. "I thought I saw a man standing on the track." He wasn't hallucinating. A 22-year-old man had run onto the track and threw an errant punch at the horses thundering toward him. Bailey managed to move safely past the interloper and score a 4 3/4-length victory.
The bizarre incident, in which no one was injured, made headlines and, understandably, little attention was paid to the race itself. But with his victory, Yes It's True had established himself as one of the nation's top sprinters. It is unusual for 3-year-olds to challenge their elders so early in the season -- most stay within their age group until the fall -- but Yes It's True had managed to trounce a field of high-class 4- and 5-year-olds.
Like most of trainer Wayne Lukas's 3-year-olds, Yes It's True had once been considered a prospect for the Triple Crown races. But the colt faltered whenever he attempted to go farther than seven furlongs, and Lukas concluded that he was cut out to be a sprinter. Since his victory at Pimlico, he has won authoritatively in two more stakes against 3-year-olds. He has run eight times at six furlongs or less, with seven wins and one second-place finish.
Yet despite this glittering record, Yes It's True is no cinch to win the De Francis Dash. His victory over his elders on Preakness day was aided by Pimlico's powerful rail-favoring, speed-favoring bias, and he won't get such help from the Laurel racing strip, which has given an edge to stretch-runners. Yes It's True is facing a formidable rival, the New York-based 4-year-old Good and Tough, who has won four stakes races since mid-March.
While Yes It's True possesses brilliant speed, Good and Tough is a strong finisher, and their confrontation could be decided by the way the early stages of the race develop.
Despite its $300,000 purse and Grade I status, the De Francis Dash drew only six entrants, and only one of them besides Yes It's True is a confirmed front-runner. The Maryland colt Storm Punch has led after a half-mile in his eight starts, and if he can pressure Yes It's True, he might set up the race for Good and Tough's late charge. But Yes It's True has shown the ability to zip a half-mile in 44 seconds flat, and he might have too much raw speed for Storm Punch. If he can take early command of the race without too much pressure, he will be hard to catch.