Gilbert Campbell's homebred graded-stakes winner Always Sunshine breezed Sunday morning in his final serious piece of work ahead of a scheduled start in the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Saturday, Sept. 15 at Laurel Park.
Regular exercise rider Michelle Peoples was up as Always Sunshine, coming off an impressive victory in the Tale of the Cat Stakes Aug. 10 at Saratoga, went five furlongs in 1:00.73 over the main track at Parx Racing, where trainer Ned Allard is based.
It was the second work for Always Sunshine since the Tale of the Cat, like the De Francis run at six furlongs. Winner of the July 14 Hockessin Stakes at Delaware Park prior to his triumph at Saratoga, he was caught going a half-mile in 51.78 seconds Aug. 24, also at Parx.
“He ran very big the other day, very big. Watching him breeze this morning, he's just doing super,” Allard said. “The trouble with a horse like that is if you're not careful, you'll end up working a lot faster than you need to. I don't have to worry about that with Michelle. She's been with me for about 15 years now and she's been getting on him since Day 1.”
The De Francis will be the first time Always Sunshine has raced in Maryland since winning the six-furlong Maryland Sprint Handicap (G3) on the undercard of the 2016 Preakness Stakes (G1) at legendary Pimlico Race Course.
Always Sunshine raced four times at Laurel Park in late 2015, winning the Dave's Friend Stakes and an open entry-level allowance, both at six furlongs, while also finishing second in allowance company and sixth in the City of Laurel Stakes.
Allard said his other option for Always Sunshine was the six-furlong Vosburgh (G1) Sept. 29 at Belmont Park where he is winless in three tries, including a third in the Runhappy Stakes and fourth in the True North (G2) this spring.
“He's run some wonderful races there but I'd like to pick a spot that he's going to be real dangerous in and I think the De Francis could be the right spot,” Allard said. “We'll know better when we get closer but right now that's what I'm pointing for. The horse just seems to be doing super.”
“He breezed five-eighths of a mile this morning and went in a minute and change. That was a good move this morning,” Allard said. “Next weekend I'll just blow him out a nice easy half-mile and that's all he's going to need.”
The 27th running of the six-furlong De Francis Dash highlights seven stakes worth $900,000 in purses to be contested on the first of several super Saturday programs during Laurel's calendar year-ending fall meet, which begins Friday, Sept. 7.
Also on the card are six stakes scheduled for Laurel's world-class turf course – the $150,000 All Along at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares 3 and up; $100,000 Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds and $100,000 Selima for 2-year-old fillies, and $100,000 laurel Dash for 3-year-olds and up and $100,000 Sensible Lady Turf Dash for females 3 and older, all at six furlongs; and the $100,000 Laurel Turf Cup at 1 ½ miles for 3-year-olds and up.
Nominations for all the Sept. 15 stakes close Thursday, Sept. 6.
Racing in Maryland is currently being conducted at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium through Labor Day, Sept. 3.
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