11/13/2014 11:40AM

Dads Caps should like pace in De Francis Dash

Barbara D. Livingston
Dads Caps, winner of the Carter Handicap, likely will stalk the pace Saturday in the De Francis Dash at Laurel Park.

There isn’t much separating the top contenders in the $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash that will be held Saturday at Laurel Park, and there sure are a lot of them.

The leading players include the Vosburgh Invitational runner-up, Dads Caps; Bern Identity, who has a recent win over the track; and Favorite Tale, a 3-year-old. Others in the lineup also are capable.

So, while the six-furlong sprint is fun to wade through, it’s a difficult race to feel confident about. The same can be said for the rest of the Laurel card.

The De Francis has the second-smallest field of the day, with the nine races averaging 12 horses each and another nine waiting on various also-eligible lists. In addition to the De Francis, five $100,000 stakes and three optional-claiming races are slotted.

Temperatures in Maryland are expected to be in the mid-40s Saturday, but the main track should be fast and the turf firm to good. The entire card will be streamed live on DRF.com.

The key to the De Francis may be pace. There is a lot of speed signed up, with Happy My Way, Bern Identity, Zee Bros, and Favorite Tale the quickest. Dads Caps figures to be stalking, while Mico Margarita and Heaven’s Runway are confirmed closers.

The pace should best suit Dads Caps and Mico Margarita.

Ben’s Cat and La Verdad were entered for the De Francis but on Friday their trainers indicated that they planned to scratch, leaving a field of eight.

Owner-trainer-breeder King Leatherbury said he planned to come out of the race unless some of the favorites dropped out. Ben's Cat will instead be pointed to the Nov. 26 Fabulous Strike Handicap at Penn National, a race he has won the last two years.

Smash and Grab is a longshot, even though trainer Damon Dilodovico won this race last year with the 9-1 shot Immortal Eyes.

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

Key contenders

Dads Caps (Last 3 Beyers: 105-95-98)

* Went a little off form after winning the Grade 1 Carter Handicap in the spring. Showed he was back in the Vosburgh while just missing by a neck to Private Zone.

Julian Pimentel will ride the expected favorite for the first time.

“He looks like he is coming into the race in good shape,” trainer Rudy Rodriguez said. “There is a lot of speed in this race. I am going to let Julian decide what to do and get him in a good spot.”

Mico Margarita (Last 3 Beyers: 82-102-102)

Finished 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint but is well placed here by Steve Asmussen.

In his start prior to the BC Sprint, he ran down the rapid Heitai to win the six-furlong Remington Park Sprint. The Louisiana-bred Heitai is 7 for 9 this year, with earnings of $498,000.

Bern Identity (Last 3 Beyers: 92-94-91)

Won his first three races this year following an eight-month layoff. Was third last out in the Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland to Work All Week, who came back to win the BC Sprint.

* Trainer Kelly Breen sent him to Laurel early and worked him a bullet half-mile in 46.20 on Nov. 5.

Happy My Way (Last 3 Beyers: 74-104-104)

Lost a speed duel with the winner, Private Zone, in the Vosburgh but is an exceptionally fast horse.

“He is coming into this race in great shape, and we are looking forward to it,” trainer Joe Orseno said. “We have had this on our schedule for a long time.”

:: DRF Live: Get real-time updates and insights from DRF reporters and handicappers on Saturday

Favorite Tale (Last 3 Beyers: 104-88-90)

It should be noted that in his Gallant Bob Stakes win on Pennsylvania Derby Day, he was on the lead along the inside, an advantage that day at Parx.

This will be his first start against older company for trainer Lupe Preciado.

Zee Bros (Last 3 Beyers: 99-77-15)

Enters off a turf-sprint allowance victory at Keeneland for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Disregard his Vosburgh effort. He had trouble at the start that day.