10/21/2009 12:00AM

Vineyard Haven the marquee horse


Vineyard Haven, a two-time Grade 1 winner in New York, will challenge older horses for the first time in Saturday's Frank De Francis Dash at Laurel Park.

The Grade 1 Dash, a six-furlong race worth $300,000, headlines a 10-race card that includes two $50,000 stakes for Maryland-breds, the Twixt and the Find Handicap.

With the connections of star sprinters Kodiak Kowboy and Fabulous Strike choosing not to come back three weeks after running one-two in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes, the 3-year-old Vineyard Haven has been instaled as the 8-5 favorite for the Dash on the track's morning line. Vineyard Haven was disqualified from first and placed second in his last start, the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 29.

His eight rivals in the Dash include three other graded stakes winners in 2009 - Ravalo, True Quality, and Ah Day.

Among that group, Ravalo shows the best recent form. A 5-year-old gelding based in Maryland, Ravalo has won 2 of 3 stakes outings since taking the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard.

True Quality won the Grade 2 General George Handicap in February, but has not been better than fifth in three subsequent starts.

The 6-year-old Ah Day, an eight-time winner at Laurel, is 3 for 8 this year, including a victory in the Grade 3 Toboggan at Aqueduct in January.

The race also attracted Roaring Lion and Fleet Valid, each of whom is coming off a stakes victory with a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure, and Peace Chant, a Doug O'Neill-trained 6-year-old who won the $100,000 Phoenix Gold Cup at Turf Paradise in February.

The two outsiders are Sacred Journey, who moves way up in class following three consecutive victories, and Saratoga Russell, a New York-based 4-year-old who is still eligible for a second-level allowance.