Beren Much the Best in De Francis Dash

July 16, 2022

Rolls to 2 ¾-Length Decision Over Wondrwherecraigis 

LAUREL, Md. – St. Omer’s Farm and Christopher Feifarek’s Beren, second in each of his last three races but never by more than a length, stepped up and ran the biggest race of his life to put away a pair of graded-stakes winners and go on to a 2 ¾-length triumph in Saturday’s $150,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park.

The 31st running of the six-furlong De Francis for 3-year-olds and up served to headline an 11-race program featuring four stakes worth $450,000 in purses that included the $100,000 Alma North and both the $100,000 Prince George’s County and $100,000 Big Dreyfus on the grass.

All four races were part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series.

Overlooked at odds of 6-1 in a field of eight, Beren ($15) raced in between graded winners Special Reserve and Wondrwherecraigis before taking command nearing the stretch and drawing off to in in 1:09.66 over a main track turned muddy following a mid-afternoon thunderstorm to earn his fifth career stakes victory.

“He came into the race great,” winning trainer Robert E. ‘Butch’ Reid Jr. said. “We wouldn’t be here if he were any other way, and he’s a game horse. All you have to do is point him in the right direction and get out of his way.”

Beren, a 4-year-old won of Weigelia, drew Post 7 in the De Francis flanked by Special Reserve to his inside and Wondrwherecraigis on the far outside. The three broke together but it was Special Reserve that found himself in front after running 22.10 seconds for the opening quarter-mile in his first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) last November.

Pennington settled Beren between horses as Wondrwherecraigis, racing for the first time since running 10th in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) March 26 in Dubai, pressed on the outside. The half went in 44.78 seconds when Beren found himself in front and Special Reserve dropping back.

“He’s a very quick horse and he doesn’t have to be on the lead. He broke sharp and the horse to the inside went to the lead, so I sat off,” Pennington said. “He was pulling me the whole way. At the top of the stretch when I asked him, he took off for me and I knew we were pretty good.”

Beren straightened for home on top but still had to contend with Wondrwherecraigis, who was taken down from first to second in last year’s De Francis – then a Grade 3 run in the fall – for drifting out late in the stretch. Jockey Sheldon Russell kept the 5-year-old gelding on a straight path but they were unable to catch the winner.

“I was watching it closely and Frankie looked like he was very confident. He sat off the inside horse a little bit and fortunately the outside took back a hair so he had some breathing room, and it worked out perfect,” Reid said. “We did get a break with that little bit of rain. This is his favorite kind of track, with a little bit of moisture and sealed like this.”

Wondrwherecraigis was two lengths ahead of Grade 3 winner Pickin’ Time in third, with another length back to 30-1 long shot War Tocsin in fourth. Threes Over Deuces, Royal Urn, Special Reserve and Karan’s Notion completed the order of finish.

Like Special Reserve, last year’s winner of the Maryland Sprint (G3) at historic Pimlico Race Course as well as the Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland, Wondrwherecraigis was also returning to action following his 10th-place finish in the $2 million Golden Shaheen (G1) March 26 in Dubai.

“We caught them both off layoffs, so that’s the right time to run against them, I guess,” Reid said. “He doesn’t have to prove anything. He owes us nothing. He’s a very tough runner. I wish they were all like him. He’s a total class act. He ships perfectly and stood in the paddock perfectly today. Nothing bothers this horse.”

First run in 1990 and named for the late president and chairman of both Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course, the De Francis’ illustrious roster of winners includes Hall of Famer Housebuster; fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Benny the Bull; and Lite the Fuse, the race’s only two-time winner (1995-96).

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
Photo by Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC

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