11/13/2014 1:01PM

Neck 'n Neck returns from layoff in Richard Small Stakes on De Francis undercard

Tom Keyser
Neck 'n Neck, who finished sixth in the Donn Handicap earlier this year, will be among the top contenders Saturday in the Richard W. Small Stakes at Laurel Park.

The five $100,000 stakes on the De Francis Dash undercard Saturday at Laurel Park should keep everyone occupied until the main event comes along.

Four of the stakes drew large, deep fields. The Richard W. Small drew a field of 13; the Safely Kept drew 16, of which 14 will be allowed to start; the City of Laurel drew 14; and the James F. Lewis II drew 13. The fifth stakes, the Smart Halo, only has seven entrants but offers a good matchup and is carded as race 1 at 12:35 p.m. Eastern.

The entire card will be streamed live on DRF.com.

:: DRF Live: Get real-time updates and insights from DRF reporters and handicappers on Saturday

The Small, formerly the Broad Brush, was renamed after the death of trainer Dickie Small at age 68 last April. Small trained Broad Brush, who won 14 of 27 starts and more than $2.6 million for owner-breeder Robert Meyerhoff in the 1980s.

The Small will be run at 1 1/8 miles and has attracted a number of hard-knockers, none more so than Neck ’n Neck. Now at the end of his 5-year-old season, Neck ’n Neck won the 2012 Indiana Derby but fractured sesamoids later that year and underwent surgery. He started twice in late 2013 and twice this season. He will return from a nine-month layoff Saturday. Trainer Ian Wilkes has put 11 works into him since September.

Other players in the Small include Page McKenney, a winner of five of his last seven; Stormin Monarcho; and Warrioroftheroses, a two-time winner at the meet.

:: DE FRANCIS MEMORIAL DASH: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live

In other stakes

** Safely Kept: Shayjolie and Taketheodds figure as contenders in this seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.

** City of Laurel: Amelia’s Wild Ride will try to bounce back in this seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds.

** James Lewis: Cinco Charlie, third in the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont Park for trainer Steve Asmussen, should be favored in this six-furlong stakes for 2-year-olds.

** Smart Halo: The Todd Pletcher-trained Overprepared, a 3 1/2-length debut winner at Belmont, will face E Dubai’s Humor, who has started her career with two easy wins at Laurel for trainer Donald Barr.