08/19/2010 1:43PM

Laurel scraps 2010 De Francis Dash

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The Frank De Francis Memorial Dash, the premier race of Laurel Park’s fall meet, will not be held this year, the Maryland Jockey Club announced Thursday.

The Dash, which had been a staple on Laurel’s fall calendar since 2001, was downgraded from Grade 1 to Grade 2 status this year, but the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, Tom Chuckas, said the decision to put the race on hiatus for the second time since 2008 had more to do with saving $300,000 in purse money and directing those funds into overnight races. Two years ago, the Dash was not run because of insufficient purse money.

“Putting the Dash on the shelf for the year has nothing to do with it no longer being a Grade 1 race,” Chuckas said. “We didn’t card it in 2008 due to a purse account shortfall and feel the $300,000 purse would be better suited on daily purses throughout the meet.”

The Dash is one of the elite stakes for older sprinters in the country. Four of the 19 winners – Housebuster (1991), Cherokee Run (1994), Smoke Glacken (1997), and Thor’s Echo (2006) – went on to earn Eclipse Awards as champion sprinter.

The Maryland Racing Commission did approve a 57-day fall Laurel meet that will run from Sept. 11 through Dec. 18. Laurel will offer 19 stakes worth $1.45 million, highlighted by the 25th Jim McKay Maryland Million on Oct. 2. The event, second only to the Preakness on Maryland’s racing calendar, has attracted crowds of 20,000 or more in 20 of its previous 24 runnings.