Laurel Park to host four stakes worth $500,000 in purses Saturday, Sept. 18
LAUREL, MD – Defending champion Laki and Grade 1 winners Jackie’s Warrior and Yaupon are among 25 accomplished older sprinters nominated to the $200,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Saturday, Sept. 18 at Laurel Park.
The 30th running of the six-furlong De Francis for 3-year-olds and up headlines four stakes worth $500,000 in purses, joined by the $100,000 Weather Vane for fillies and mares 3 and up, also at six furlongs; $100,000 Polynesian for 3-year-olds and up and $100,000 Twixt for females 3 and older, both going one mile.
Honoring the late owner of Laurel Park and historic Pimlico Race Course, the De Francis’ distinguished roster of past winners includes Hall of Famer Housebuster and fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Benny the Bull.
Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ 8-year-old gelding Laki rallied to capture last year’s De Francis by a nose over Eastern Bay for his first graded-stakes triumph. Trained by Damon Dilodovico, who also won an ungraded De Francis with Immortal Eyes in 2013, Laki has lost four starts since extending his streak to five straight years with a stakes victory in the April 24 Frank Whiteley at Laurel.
Yaupon winning the Lite the Fuse Stakes at Pimlico on July 4 and earning Black Type. (Maryland Jockey Club)
Jackie’s Warrior and Yaupon both exit Grade 1 triumphs on the Aug. 28 card at Saratoga for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, North America’s all-time leading trainer by wins that has a total of four De Francis nominees. J. Kirk and Judy Robison’s Jackie’s Warrior captured the seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens by a neck one race after Yaupon edged fellow Grade 1 winner and De Francis nominee Firenze Fire in the seven-furlong Forego.
While Jackie’s Warrior has never raced in the state, Yaupon is 2-0 in Maryland having won the 2020 Chick Lang (G3) and July 4 Lite the Fuse, both at Pimlico. Asmussen also nominated West Point Thoroughbreds and Marvin Delfiner’s Jaxon Traveler, a four-time winner in Maryland including the Star de Naskra last out Aug. 21 at Pimlico, and Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen’s Grade 1-placed Jalen Journey.
Since winning the six-furlong Tom Fool (G3) March 6 at Aqueduct, Michael Dubb’s Chateau has run fourth in the Carter (G1), second in the Runhappy (G3) at Belmont Park and most recently third behind Yaupon and Laki in the Lite the Fuse. The 6-year-old gelding is based in New York with trainer Rob Atras.
Multiple stakes winners nominated to the De Francis include Florida-based Double Crown, second to Yaupon in the Chick Lang; Francatelli, third by a head in the Aug. 31 Parx Dash (G3); Just Might, Grade 2 placed on turf and a stakes winner on grass and dirt riding a three-race win streak; My Boy Tate, Threes Over Deuces and Whereshetoldmetogo. Wondrwherecraigis was a front-running winner of the six-furlong Tale of the Cat Aug. 13 at Saratoga for trainer Brittany Russell.
The Weather Vane, named for the Maryland-bred champion older filly of 1998 that won 17 of 36 career starts and 14 stakes including the 1997 Safely Kept (G3), also attracted 25 nominations. Prominent among them are Hello Beautiful, who earned her sixth career stakes victory in the July 31 Alma North at Pimlico and is 7-for-11 lifetime at Laurel; and four-time stakes winner Chub Wagon, who lost for the first time in nine lifetime starts when second in the Dr. Teresa Garafalo Memorial Aug. 23.
Other Weather Vane nominees include Ain’t No Elmers, second in the 2020 Miss Preakness (G3) and third in the July 28 Honorable Miss (G2) at Saratoga; Casual, second to Chub Wagon in the May 15 Skipat at Pimlico; Club Car, third in the Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) and second in the Chicago (G3) this year exiting a stakes win at Mountaineer Park Aug. 7; Garafalo Memorial winner Don’t Call Me Mary, trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher; and multiple stakes winners Honey I’m Good, Casual’s Asmussen-trained stablemate; 2020 TCA (G3) winner Inthemidstofbiz; Needs Supervision and Never Enough Time.
Most popular among horsemen with 31 nominations was the Polynesian, stretched out beyond a sprint for the first time since returning to the stakes calendar in 2017 following a 17-year absence. Its first 12 runnings, alternating between Laurel, Pimlico and Colonial Downs, were contested at 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles.
Nominees include 2019 Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Roadster, unraced since a fourth in the April 30 Alysheba; West Will Power and Phat Man, respectively 2-3 behind Code of Honor in the Aug. 21 Iselin (G3) at Monmouth Park; June 12 Salvator Mile (G3) winner Informative; 2019 Commonwealth Turf (G3) winner Mr Dumas; Aug. 27 Robert Hilton Memorial winner Exculpatory; and local multiple stakes winners Alwaysmining and Cordmaker.
The Twixt attracted 30 nominees led by May 2 Ruffian (G2) winner Vault and stakes-winning Brad Cox-trained stablemate Dreamalildreamofu, second in the May 14 Allaire du Pont (G3) at Pimlico; Off Topic, third in the 2019 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1); Chilean Group 2 winner Cheetara; and stakes winners Artful Splatter, Josie, Kiss the Girl, Malibu Beauty, Miss Leslie, Mrs. Orb, Needs Supervision, Saracosa and Trolley Ride.
Laurel Park’s 59-day fall meet is scheduled to run Thursday, Sept. 9 through Friday, Dec. 31.
Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Photo: Laki winning the Frank Y. Whiteley Stakes at Pimlico on April 23, 2021 and earning Black Type. (Maryland Jockey Club)