Graded stakes racing is especially light this weekend because of the close proximity of the Breeders' Cup just two weeks away. There will be one race of interest in the Sprint division, the G1 Frank J. De Francis Memorial, to be run on Saturday at Laurel Park. The six-furlong race, for 3-year-olds and upward, has a tradition of being used a springboard to the Breeders' Cup Sprint. In 2006 and '07, De Francis winners Thor's Echo and Benny the Bull both went on to compete in the Sprint; Thor's Echo won the Sprint in 2006 and Benny the Bull finished fourth at Monmouth Park. The De Francis Dash was put on hiatus in 2008 due to financial distress according to the Maryland Jockey Club.
This year the De Francis Dash features Vineyard Haven, installed as the morning-line favorite at 8-5. On the 2009 Kentucky Derby trail after wins in the Hopeful (G1) and the Champagne (G1) as a 2-year-old, he was shipped to Dubai to prep for the Derby. After a dismal race at Nad Al Sheba, he didn't reappear on the track until Aug. 29 this year in the King's Bishop (G1) at Saratoga. He finished first but was disqualified to second for interference in the race run over a sloppy track. If he proves his mettle here over older horses for the first time, he may a contender for the Breeders' Cup.
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