With no dominant sprinter in the country this year, the Grade I $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash drew an oversubscribed field of 18 for Saturday at Laurel Park. Only 14 horses can go to the post for the prestigious six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up.
Tiger Heart, runner-up in the Grade I Vosburgh on Oct. 1 at Belmont Park, was installed as the 7-2 morning-line favorite by track handicapper Frank Carulli. The 4-year-old New York-based colt is trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint this year with Silver Train. Edgar Prado will ride Tiger Heart.
Along with New York, horses will ship in from Canada, New Jersey, Chicago and Kentucky for the race. Local star Gators N Bears, retiring after the race, leads a contingent of five Maryland entrants. Laurel-based Sensibly Chic is the lone filly in the field.
The De Francis, named for the late owner of Laurel Park and Pimlico, is one of only five open Grade I six-furlong sprints in the country. The race tops the Fall Festival of Racing card that features eight stakes races, including the historic Laurel Futurity and Selima Stakes, which have been moved to the turf this year.
The Selima drew a strong field of 2-year-old fillies, including stakes winner J'ray, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey.
-- John Scheinman