09/19/2013 4:09PM

Laurel Park: Service for Ten can cap rags-to-riches story in De Francis Dash


Service for Ten began his career among the lowliest horses in Maryland, debuting in September 2011 in a $10,000 maiden claimer. Saturday, the 4-year-old gelding will line up for the richest sprint race in Maryland, the $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.

Service for Ten is not just a bold member of racing’s proletariat, sneaking through the gates for a quick peek at racing’s aristocracy. Making his first start since February, Service for Ten rallied powerfully to win the $50,000 Moscarelli on Aug. 10 at Delaware Park, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 that would make him highly competitive in the De Francis. The race before his layoff, Service for Ten crossed the wire a game second in the $104,000 John Campbell Stakes at Laurel.

[DE FRANCIS DASH: Get PPs, watch Saturday's full Laurel card live]

Service for Ten will need to retain his edge in the six-furlong De Francis to topple the likes of graded-stakes winner Sage Valley, the 9-5 favorite on Laurel’s morning line. The De Francis, however, goes without millionaire Ben’s Cat, whose trainer and part-owner, King Leatherbury, opted instead for the $100,000 Laurel Dash after giving serious consideration to the De Francis.

The De Francis, race 10 with a scheduled post time of 5:53 Eastern, is one of seven stakes on what should be an entertaining Laurel card, with first post scheduled for 1:10. The race’s purse is top class, but the De Francis still has not regained graded status after not being run in 2008 and 2010. The Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes next weekend in New York draws the region’s cream of the division.

The race’s lack of star power could open the door for a horse like Service for Ten, who won that bottom-level maiden-claiming debut and was claimed for $25,000 out of his second start by owner Mark Lapidus and trainer Damon Dilodovico. Dilodovico, however, credits his owner for the claim.

“I remember being a little reluctant to drop a slip on him,” he said.

Service for Ten has turned out a great find, banking nearly $150,000 for his present connections. He has performed well in route races, but with a good pace at which to run can unleash a strong burst like he showed in the Moscarelli. Dilodovico, who also sends out front-running Immortal Eyes, did express concern that Service for Ten might have run too well last time.

“With a layoff and a big effort you always worry about a little bounce factor, but it has been six weeks between starts,” said Dilodovico.

Sage Valley, though, appears to be a deserving De Francis favorite. He has two Grade 3 sprint wins this year, including the Maryland Sprint at Pimlico, and exits the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga, having finished an even fifth of nine. Sage Valley’s performance last out, perhaps affected by mud, was just ho-hum, but he remains a solid bounce-back candidate in just his fifth start of the year.

Brigand and Il Villano along with Immortal Eyes should race among the lead group. Rail-drawn Saturday’s Charm, in from New York for trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Rosie Napravnik, merits consideration off a solid third facing good Saratoga allowance foes in his most recent start.