09/09/2009 11:00PM

Million, De Francis top Laurel's fall meet

Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue
Cuba, a winner on Maryland Million Day in 2008, might be back for this year's program of Maryland-sired stakes on Sept. 26.

Two major event days, featuring the Maryland Million and the return of the Grade 1 Frank De Francis Dash, highlight the 57-day fall meet that begins Saturday at Laurel Park.

By packaging its best races on one Saturday in September and another in October, Laurel will present 15 of the 20 stakes scheduled for the meet on just two days.

The 12th edition of a 12-stakes program for Maryland-sired horses, rechristened Jim McKay Maryland Million Day, is scheduled for Sept. 26.

Possible runners include 2008 winners Cuba, Sweet Goodbye, and Celtic Innis, plus the millionaire turf sprinter Heros Reward. Pre-entries will be announced Sept. 18, with the post position draw scheduled for five days later.

The $300,000 De Francis Dash, back on the schedule after it was not run in 2008 because of a purse account shortfall, is one of three stakes that will be contested Oct. 24.

The De Francis Dash is one of just three Grade 1 races contested in Maryland, along with the Preakness Stakes and the Pimlico Special. Introduced in 1990, the Dash is one of the elite six-furlong sprints in the country, with four of the 18 winners - Housebuster (1991), Cherokee Run (1994), Smoke Glacken (1997), and Thor's Echo (2006) - earning Eclipse Award honors for champion sprinter.

Opening day features a Bet or No Bet promotion where eight lucky fans will be given the option of accepting a $1,000 win bet or $100 in cash.

The eight Saturday programs in September and October will feature live music and drink specials.

The 10-race opening-day card includes five races on turf, all with fields of at least 11 horses. The nominal co-features are a second-level optional $25,000 claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf and a first-level allowance for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

In the turf sprint (race 7), the contenders include Ride the Westwind, a three-time turf sprint winner in New York and Canada; Seeyouinthecity, who was good enough to win the Humphrey S. Finney and finish fourth in the Grade 3 Kent, both 1 1/8-mile turf races, last season; and Tommie's Star, winner of the 2007 Mister Diz Stakes, making his first start since July 2008.

The main-track allowance (race 8) is led by First Lady Glenna, the lone 4-year-old facing seven 3-year-old fillies. She comes off a second-place finish in a similar race Aug. 29 over the bullring at Timonium.


* RACING DATES: 57 days; Wednesdays to Saturdays through Dec. 19 (plus Columbus Day)

* POST TIME: 1:10 p.m.

* HIGHLIGHTS: Maryland Million Day, Sept. 26, 12 stakes for Maryland-sired horses; Grade 1, $300,000 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash, Oct. 24

* ADMISSION: Grandstand and clubhouse, $3

* PARKING: General, free; preferred, $2; valet, park and lock, $5

* LOCATION: Midway between Baltimore and Washington on Route 198; four miles east of I-95 exit 33, two miles west of Route 295 Baltimore-Washington Parkway (exit onto Route 198 west/Laurel)

* PHONE: (301) 725-0400