11/18/2015 2:03PM

Laurel officials hope De Francis Memorial Dash makes the grade

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Gentlemen's Bet (left) is awarded the win in the $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash on Nov. 14 at Laurel Park after Trouble Kid (right) is disqualified and placed second.

The Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash was run last weekend at Laurel Park with a $350,000 purse for the fourth straight year but still is waiting to be recognized by the American Graded Stakes Committee. Surely, it will make the grade next year.

Grade 3 winner Trouble Kid crossed the wire first but was disqualified to second for interference on the backstretch. Two-time Grade 1 winner Palace finished third. Gentlemen’s Bet, who was awarded the win, is not a graded winner but has raced in eight graded stakes and finished third in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Fourth-place finisher Stallwalkin’ Dude finished third, beaten a neck, in the Grade 1 Vosburgh in September and was second in the Grade 2 True North in June.

“Personally, I thought it would have been graded this year,” said Georganne Hale, the director of racing for the Maryland Jockey Club.

The six-furlong De Francis Dash was a Grade 3 in 1992 and 1993, a Grade 2 from 1994 to 1998, and a Grade 1 from 1999 to 2007 and in 2009. The race was not run in 2008 or 2010 and returned with a $150,000 purse in 2011. It has been worth $350,000 ever since.

“It’s our own fault that we lost the grade, but we had no choice,” Hale said. “We didn’t have the money. But now, with everything looking up for Maryland, our goal is to make it a Grade 1 again, so we have to keep getting Grade 1 winners in it.”

Four Eclipse Award winners have won the De Francis Dash: Thor’s Echo (2006), Smoke Glacken (1997), Cherokee Run (1994), and Housebuster (1991).