Woodford Racing's Switzerland bounced back from a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga to win the 27th running of the G3, $250,000 Xpressbet Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park on Saturday. Under jockey Feargal Lynch, the 4-year-old colt by Speightstown went to the front shortly after the start, controlled the pace and won by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:09.11 for six furlongs on a fast track.
Laki finished second, with Sweetontheladies third and Colonel Sharp fourth in the field of eight older male sprinters.
Switzerland paid $5.60 as the favorite.
The De Francis Dash was the highlight of the 13-race Fall Festival of Racing program that featured seven stakes, six on Laurel's world-class turf course, worth $900,000 in purses. It was also the final race of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series. One of the contestants in the race, Lewisfield, had an opportunity to tie for the overall championship with a victory in the De Francis, but the Jeff Runco trainee finished off the board. Horses must contest at least three MATCH Series races to qualify for bonuses for their owners and trainers by compiling the most points in each division.
“Steve said to me he doesn't always break that sharp. He didn't break that sharp the last time and he rushed up in there, and he didn't want me to do that again,” Lynch said. “This is a really nice horse. He's a serious horse. He's so natural and so speedy.
“It was never in doubt but it took him a while to switch leads and it wasn't until the sixteenth pole that he switched on me and he just found a little bit more,” he added. “He was just doing enough in front.”
Colonel Sharp was first out of the gate, but Lynch eased Switzerland from the inside post position to the lead in the opening quarter mile, clocked in :22.83. They covered the half in :45.72 and five furlongs in :57.20, with Switzerland opening a clear lead at the top of the stretch. Laki closed on the inside for second but was never a threat to the winner.
Switzerland, bred in Kentucky by France Family Trust, was produced from the Indian Charlie mare, Czechers. He was a $500,000 purchase at Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training. where he was consigned by the McKathan Bros., who bought him as a yearling for $175,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Switzerland raced for trainer Chad Brown for his first seven races, but was transferred to the Asmussen barn after breaking his maiden at Aqueduct in February 2018. He won a pair of allowance races at Oaklawn Park in March and April, then was a front-running 3 1/2-length winner over a sloppy track in the G3 Maryland Sprint on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico. Two months later he was bet down to 3-1 in the Vanderbilt but tired after setting fast fractions for the opening half mile.
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