07/15/2014 2:24PM

Laurel announces fall stakes schedule; De Francis Memorial Dash moves to November


Laurel Park’s fall stakes schedule was approved by the Maryland Racing Commission on Tuesday. The schedule is similar to 2013, but the dates of some races have changed as the 2014 meet opens approximately two weeks earlier than a year ago.

Major changes to the schedule are:

* The $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash will be run Nov. 15 this year as it continues to search for a home on the calendar. In 2012, the De Francis was run Oct. 27. Last year, it was moved up to opening weekend and held Sept. 21.

Mike Gathagan, vice president of communications for the Maryland Jockey Club, said the goal is to get the De Francis graded again and the hope is running it two weeks after the Breeders’ Cup will turn out to be the right spot for it.

Five $100,000 undercard stakes will support the De Francis Dash.

* The schedule released Tuesday is missing five Maryland-bred and/or -sired stakes that were run last year. Gathagan said he expects those races to be announced in the next few weeks by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. If those five stakes maintain their $100,000 purses, the Laurel stakes schedule would be worth $3.35 million, the same as in 2013.

* The $100,000 Broad Brush Stakes has been fittingly renamed the Richard Small Stakes after the longtime Maryland trainer who died in April. Small trained Broad Brush, an earner of $2.6 million in the 1980s. Small also trained Concern, a son of Broad Brush, who won the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Both horses were owned and bred by Robert Meyerhoff.

The centerpiece of the Laurel fall meet is Maryland Million Day on Oct. 18. The card will offer eight stakes worth a combined $800,000, plus two $50,000 starter handicaps. All of the races are for Maryland-sired runners.

Another highlight of the meet will be the Sept. 27 program, when five $100,000 turf stakes are scheduled.

The 65-day meet will run from Sept. 5 to Dec. 31 on primarily a Wednesday-to-Saturday basis.