11/12/2014 4:55PM

Dads Caps among 10 entered in De Francis Dash

Barbara D. Livingston
Dads Caps wins the Grade 1 Carter Handicap in April.

After not being run in 2008 and 2010, the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park lost its graded status in 2011 after its purse was reduced from $300,000 to $150,000. Saturday’s De Francis will be the third straight year that the six-furlong sprint has offered a $350,000 purse, and judging by the field it has attracted, a fresh grade can’t be far off.

A field of 10 was entered for the De Francis, the centerpiece on an intriguing card that also includes five $100,000 stakes. There are 108 horses in the body of the nine races, an average of 12 per race. Nine others are also-eligibles.

The De Francis has attracted a varied group. La Verdad, a 4-year-old filly who has won 6 of 10 starts this year for trainer Linda Rice, will be taking on males for the first time. Favorite Tale, who earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Gallant Bob last time out for trainer Lupe Preciado, will be facing older rivals for the first time. And local hero Ben’s Cat will switch from turf to the main track for King Leatherbury.

Favoritism in the De Francis is likely to go to Dads Caps, who won the Grade 1 Carter for trainer Rudy Rodriguez in the spring. He was second, beaten a neck by Private Zone, in his most recent race, the Grade 1 Vosburgh.

Bern Identity also will have his backers. The Kelly Breen-trained 4-year-old won his first three starts of the season, including the Dave’s Friend at Laurel Park. He finished third, beaten three lengths by Work All Week, in the Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland last time out. Work All Week came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

The remainder of the field includes Happy My Way, trainer Joe Orseno; Heaven’s Runway, Jimmy Toner; Zee Bros, D. Wayne Lukas; Mico Margarita, Steve Asmussen; and Smash and Grab, Damon Dilodovico.

Seven of the 10 De Francis entrants are graded stakes winners.

:: DE FRANCIS MEMORIAL DASH: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live

On the undercard:

• $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes: Neck 'n Neck is part of a wide-open field of older horses going 1 1/8 miles. Neck 'n Neck, trained by Ian Wilkes, will be making his first start since the Donn Handicap in February.

• $100,000 Safely Kept Stakes: Sixteen 3-year-old fillies, 14 of whom will be allowed to start, were entered in this seven-furlong race. Among the contenders is Shayjolie, who most recently finished fourth in the Raven Run at Keeneland for trainer Gary Contessa.

• $100,000 City of Laurel Stakes: Fourteen 3-year-olds will meet in this seven-furlong stakes. Amelia’s Wild Ride has won 5 of his last 7 for trainer Ramon Preciado.

• $100,000 James F. Lewis III Stakes: Asmussen sends in Cinco Charlie, who was third, beaten a length by the undefeated Blofeld, in the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont Park. Thirteen 2-year-olds are in the six-furlong race.

• $100,000 Smart Halo: Undefeated local runner E Dubai’s Humor will take on Belmont Park maiden winner Overprepared in this six-furlong stakes for 2-year-old fillies, which has a field of seven.