10/25/2012 1:51PM

Laurel: De Francis Dash offers price-shopping opportunity

Mike Montgomery
Immortal Eyes is being wheeled back eight days after winning his third 4 1/2-furlong stakes of the season at Charles Town.

Among the 11 sprinters entered in Saturday’s $350,000 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park, nine have posted at least one Beyer Speed Figure between 92 and 98 in their last two races. With so little difference among the contenders, the six-furlong De Francis Dash might be the kind of race where it pays to shop for good odds.

The De Francis Dash is the last and richest of six stakes on a Fall Festival of Racing program that begins at 12:35 p.m. Eastern, 35 minutes earlier than usual. The five undercard stakes are all scheduled for turf and worth $150,000 apiece.

Based on class, Grade 1 winner Sean Avery and Pacific Ocean, a Grade 3 stakes winner each of the past two seasons, stand out in the De Francis Dash. But they may be vulnerable at short prices.

Sean Avery has raced just twice since winning the Grade 1 Alfred Vanderbilt in August 2011, the lack of starts the result of his second occurrence of a tendon injury. He’s coming off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Vosburgh.

Pacific Ocean’s two fastest races came going seven furlongs in the Grade 3 James Marvin at Saratoga in July and last November’s Grade 3 Vernon Underwood on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park. He stopped badly the last time he raced six furlongs on dirt in the Grade 2 True North.

If you’re looking for a couple of live longshots, there are positive traits in both 7-year-old short-sprint specialist Immortal Eyes and the 3-year-old rising star Alsvid.

Immortal Eyes, 20-1 on the track’s morning line, is being wheeled back eight days after winning his third 4 1/2-furlong stakes of the season at Charles Town. A year ago, Immortal Eyes posted a career-best 101 Beyer finishing a close second in the De Francis Dash.

“He was definitely on his game last year. We kind of feel he’s moving towards that right now,” said the trainer of Immortal Eyes, Damon Dilodovico, whose horse gets in with 118 pounds, six pounds fewer than he carried in last weekend’s Jefferson County Handicap.

Likewise, Midwest-based trainer Chris Hartman is looking for new challenges for Alsvid (10-1) after the gelding won back-to-back sprints against older horses at Remington Park, capped by a nose victory as the 8-5 favorite in the $200,000 Remington Sprint Cup. Based on how Alsvid has adapted to a change of scenery, Hartman is expecting another big effort.

“I don’t like running a 3-year old against older horses, but we felt that he’s done that his last two races and he’s stepped up to the plate,” said Hartman, who has never started a horse in Maryland. “We wanted to train him over the track, and he’s been getting over it really smooth.”

Others who merit respect include Action Andy, a four-time stakes winner this season; Royal Currier, who captured two sprint stakes at Monmouth Park and one at Belmont in 2012; and the 3-year-old Il Villano, winner of the $100,000 Chick Lang in his only previous Maryland appearance but stepping up to face older horses for the first time.

The De Francis Dash, first run in 1990, was a Grade 1 event between 1997 and 2009, with four of its winners going on to claim Eclipse Awards as champion sprinter. The race was not contested in 2008 or 2010, but was brought back last fall as an ungraded race with a $150,000 purse.