Updated on 09/16/2011 8:42AM

Thunderello too good to sit

Email
Horsephotos
In the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Thunderello (right) and Orientate (left) raced one-two from the half-mile pole all the way to the wire.

It was not trainer Scott Lake's intention to wheel Thunderello back in Saturday's $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash three weeks after his second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"Our original plan was to give him more time," said Lake, who was eyeing the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita on Dec. 26. "But he came out of this race better mentally and physically than any race we had him in. The second day after the Breeders' Cup, I said, 'This is something we ought to be thinking about.' "Now, Lake is thinking he can achieve the first Grade 1 victory of his career with Thunderello, who figures to go favored in the six-furlong De Francis, which drew a field of eight.

The De Francis highlights a 10-race Laurel Park card that includes six stakes. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern. The first 4,000 fans paying full admission receive a Laurel Park Sports Cap. Also, Hall of Fame trainer Bud Delp will sign autographs from noon to 1 p.m.

The weather could play a role in the De Francis, as a Nor'easter was forecast for the East Coast on Saturday. Lake said track condition would determine whether he runs Thunderello, whose only stakes victory to date came in the ungraded Gallant Bob Handicap at Philadelphia Park.

"If it's a deep, drying out track I'm definitely not going to run," Lake said. "If it's a wet-fast track I'll definitely run.'

Thunderello set a wickedly fast pace in the Sprint, running his first half-mile in 43.91 seconds. Lake said that was more a product of having drawn the rail. In the De Francis, Thunderello will break from post 7, enabling jockey Edgar Prado to play the race off the break.

"He can rate, he can do anything you really want him to do," Lake said. "With the outside hole you have so much more of an advantage; he can be breathing on them instead of them breathing on him.'

California shipper Avanzado may go off the second choice in the De Francis. The 5-year-old Argentine-bred is 3 for 3 in this country, including a victory in the Grade 2 Forest Hills Handicap at Belmont in his last start.

Avanzado demonstrated the ability to sit off a horse in the Forest Hills, giving trainer Doug O'Neill confidence his horse doesn't have to be part of what is shaping up to be a hot pace.

"We're going to go and if they go too fast he can sit just off them and let them go," O'Neill said. "He's doing as good as he has leading up to the last three.'

O'Neill said Thunderello is definitely the horse to beat, and is not happy that, under the conditions of the race, Avanzado concedes eight pounds to the favorite.

At 122 pounds, Avanzado is the co-highweight with D'wildcat, whose two wins this year have come via disqualification.

A horse that could offer value in the De Francis is Sassy Hound. A 5-year-old gelded son of Deerhound, Sassy Hound is 12 for 21 at six furlongs and 6 for 12 at Laurel. Trainer Ben Feliciano Jr. was thinking of running Sassy Hound in the Fall Highweight at Aqueduct on Thanksgiving Day, but likes the way the De Francis could set up for his horse.

"He seems to be better if he runs on the outside of horses and I really like our post position," said Feliciano, whose horse drew the outside. "He likes to chase the speed and with Thunderello and Rusty Spur in there that should be perfect.'

Outstander is 3 for 3 at Laurel Park including a three-quarter-length victory over Sassy Hound in the Lite the Fuse Stakes last out. Having drawn the rail in the De Francis, Outstander may be forced to use his speed early.

Boston Common, who finished second to Thunderello in the Gallant Bob, and Deer Run, complete the field.

for Laurel entries.

:: Subscribers: to purchase past performances for Laurel.

:: Non-subscribers: to purchase past performances for Laurel.

Get FREE past performances for this race in the DRF.com section. Every week you'll find free past performances and Thorograph sheets on the weekend's best races.