10/24/2012 3:43PM

Laurel Park: Field of 11 entered in De Francis Memorial Dash

Tom Keyser
Pacific Ocean, shown winning the James Marvin Stakes at Saratoga, is among the De Francis favorites.

Pacific Ocean, a Grade 3 winner each of the past two seasons, and Sean Avery, who has raced just twice since winning the Grade 1 Alfred Vanderbilt in August 2011, head a group of 11 sprinters entered Wednesday for Saturday’s Frank De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park.

The De Francis Dash, formerly a Grade 1 event, enhanced its chances to regain graded status after the Maryland Jockey Club more than doubled its purse from $150,000 to $350,000. The Fall Festival of Racing program also has five turf stakes worth $150,000 apiece. Each of the turf events attracted at least 10 entrants, with 14 in the main body of the 5 1/2-furlong Selima for 2-year-old fillies, the Lady Baltimore for fillies and mares, and the 1 1/2-mile Laurel Turf Cup.

Pacific Ocean, based in New York with trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., won the Grade 3 James Marvin at Saratoga in July and the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood at Hollywood Park last November.

Sean Avery, who trains at Monmouth Park for trainer Allen Iwinski, returned from 13 months on the sidelines to win an overnight stakes at Belmont Park in early September, then flashed high speed and faded to fifth in the Grade 1 Vosburgh.

The De Francis Dash also attracted Action Andy, who earned his fourth stakes victory of 2012 in the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap three weeks ago; short-sprint specialist Immortal Eyes, a three-time stakes winner going 4 1/2 furlongs this season at Charles Town and runner-up in last year’s De Francis Dash; and Royal Currier, whose four wins this season include two stakes at Monmouth and one at Belmont.

The 1 1/16-mile Lady Baltimore features a trio of Grade 3 winners this season – Laughing, Naples Bay, and Silver Screamer.

The millionaire 6-year-old Ben’s Cat, who won last year’s Laurel Dash when it was transferred to the main track, tops a field of 10 in the six-furlong Dash.

The big field for the Laurel Turf Cup includes recent Maryland Million Turf winner Roadhog and Sea Tobe, runner-up in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker.