10/20/2011 11:18AM

Laurel Park: Ravalo cuts back to sprint in De Francis Dash

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The last time the Frank De Francis Memorial Dash was contested at Laurel Park, it was a Grade 1 race and locally based Ravalo rallied gamely to get second, earning a 102 Beyer Speed Figure.

It’s now two years later. The De Francis Dash is back on Maryland’s racing calendar, albeit as an ungraded race with a purse of $150,000, half the value of the 2009 running.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is Ravalo, who remains dangerous at age 7 and is part of a 10-horse lineup for the feature on a 10-race card that features two other stakes, the $75,000 Lady Baltimore and the $60,000 Twixt.

Ravalo, who leads the Dash field with 16 career victories and $1.1 million in earnings, is nevertheless no better than third choice at 5-1 on the track’s morning line, a reflection of the depth in Saturday’s field.

Two starts ago, Ravalo ran well enough to win the $200,000 Remington Sprint Championship with a 98 Beyer. He cuts back to a sprint Saturday after a fourth-place finish going a mile on Tapeta in the Presque Isle Downs Mile in early September. The last time he made a similar distance switch, Ravalo responded by winning the $75,000 Christmas at Mountaineer with a 102 Beyer.

“I think he’s more professional since the last time he ran in the Dash," said trainer Donald Barr. "He used to have to go on the front end, now he will rate a little bit better."

Although Ravalo is 0 for 6 at Laurel, Barr said he is not worried about that statistic because the horse has handled the surface during the monring, including a five-furlong breeze in 1:00 last week.

“He trains well on this racetrack,” said Barr. “I worked him last Saturday and he went very well. I think he’s coming to the race as good as he has any other race."

The sharpest recent form among the Dash contestants belongs to Candyman E, a 4-year-old who steps up to make his stakes debut after three consecutive sprint wins since joining Tony Dutrow’s barn with Beyers of 97, 95, and 104.

“He is in top form,” said Dutrow, whose father, Dick, won the Dash with Lite the Fuse in 1995 and 1996 and brother Richard Jr. took the 2008 running with Benny the Bull. “I think he is best when he can sit off and make a run. An old friend thought the horse would be useful in the Northeast this summer and sent me to him. I am happy things have worked out well.”

The start of Candyman E’s winning streak came against fellow Dash contestant It’s Never to Late. A winner of 15 of 38 starts lifetime, the 6-year-old It’s Never to Late also steps up in class following back-to-back wins at Delaware. He has been freshened since scoring by 2 1/2 lengths, earning a 95 Beyer, on Sept. 13. Each of the last three times It’s Never to Late has been given slightly more than a month between races, he has won.

The field also includes Immortal Eyes, a Maryland-based 6-year-old gelding whose only loss in his last six starts dating back to March came when he missed by a neck in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap at Pimlico. His wins include the $75,000 Charles Town Dash and the $85,000 West Virginia Chairman’s Cup at Mountaineer.

Among the horses with back class hoping to regain their best form are Congressional Page, second in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Sprint Championship in 2010, and Wildcat Brief, a close third in the 2010 running of the Grade 1 Vosburgh.

Congressional Page, part of a coupled entry for trainer Mike Trombetta with Despite the Odds, will be reunited with jockey Rosie Napravnik for the first time since the 2009 Mountaineer Mile.

Wildcat Brief makes the second start of his current form cycle after winning a high-priced optional claimer at Laurel six weeks ago.

◗ In the Rough, stepping up off a dominant 5 1/4-length score two weeks ago, will try to work out a good trip from post 12 in the $75,000 Lady Baltimore for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

So far at the fall meet, posts 11 and 12 are a combined 0 for 12 in two-turn grass routes.

The 88 Beyer that In the Rough earned for her third-level optional $32,000 claiming victory is the best last-race figure in the Lady Baltimore field.

Her rivals include Acquitaine, third in last month’s Grade 3 Noble Damsel at Belmont; the 5-year-old mare Here to Win, a two-time Group 1 winner in South Africa last year but idle since finishing fifth in the Dubai Duty Free in March; Unbridled Essence, second by a nose in the Grade 3 Violet in May but no better than sixth in two subsequent starts; and Baltimore Belle, second as the favorite earlier this month in the Maryland Million Ladies.

◗ Three of the top four finishers from the Maryland Million Oaks, including winner Brushed by Love, are rematched at the same one-mile distance in the $60,000 Twixt for 3-year-old Maryland-bred fillies.