Prestigious $200,000 Sprint Joins Preakness (G1) Undercard Saturday, Oct. 3
Florida Shipper Liza Star Looks to Spring Upset in $100,000 Skipat
BALTIMORE – Last fall, trainer John Terranova sent an unknown minor stakes winner from New York to Maryland, one that had been competitive graded company without success, in search of a breakthrough race.
Killybegs Captain delivered, springing a mild upset in the $200,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) at Laurel Park. Though the horse and the venue have changed, Terranova is looking to repeat the pattern with Stan the Man Saturday, Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course.
The 29th running of the six-furlong De Francis for 3-year-olds and up is part of an all-stakes Preakness Day program featuring the 145th renewal of the $1 million Preakness (G1), contested this year as the final jewel in a refashioned Triple Crown, and the 96th edition of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2), one of the country’s premiere events for 3-year-old fillies.
Named for the late president and chairman of both Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, and not run in 2008 or 2010, the De Francis’ illustrious roster of past winners includes Hall of Famer Housebuster, fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Benny the Bull, and Lite the Fuse, the race’s only two-time winner (1995-96).
This year marks only the third time the De Francis has been run at Pimlico, where it debuted in 1990 and returned in 2004. A win would allow Terranova to join Rick Dutrow as the lone trainer to win the De Francis in back-to-back years. Dutrow trained Lite the Fuse as well as 2007 winner Benny the Bull.
“Certainly, we’re just thankful that we have horses of that caliber that can run in those races and be competitive or have a shot to win them. It looks like right now Stan the Man is in good, good form,” Terranova said. “It would be really neat to come and have a real shot at winning that race a second time. That would be nice.”
Long Lake Stable’s Stan the Man is a two-time stakes winner, taking the 1 1/8-mile Queens County last December at Aqueduct and the six-furlong Tale of the Cat last time out Aug. 20 at Saratoga after running second behind Grade 1 winner Firenze Fire in the True North (G2) June 27 at Belmont Park.
Terranova scratched Stan the Man from the Vosburgh (G2) Sept. 26 at Belmont, won by Firenze Fire, to point for the De Francis. Stan the Man breezed four furlongs in 48.89 seconds Sept. 27, ninth-fastest of 67 horses at Belmont.
“He came out of Saratoga well and has trained on forwardly,” Terranova said. “He’s doing fantastic. He’s in really good shape. I loved his breeze [Sunday] morning. He looks sharp and good to go.”
Stan the Man has a win and three seconds at six furlongs, but has also had success at seven, eight and nine furlongs. Now 6, he has finished third or better in 16 of 24 lifetime starts and is approaching $500,000 in purses earned.
“He looks to be doing really well sprinting at the moment, even though he’s versatile. We’ve gone long with him in the past and he’s done different things,” Terranova said. “He’s held his own against some stiff competition right from the very beginning. He’s been a pleasure, just a fun horse, a neat horse, and we’ve taken our time with him over the years. He’s had a few off races here and there for one reason or another, but he’s certainly come back and looks great as a 6-year-old.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Stan the Man from Post 7 in a field of 8.
Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki, a stakes winner each of the past four years, will look to give trainer Damon Dilodovico his second De Francis victory following Immortal Eyes 9-1 upset in 2013, when the race wasn’t graded. Laki, 7, won the Oceanport Centennial July 3 to open his 2020 season and has run second three times since, a pair of seven-furlong allowances and most recently in the six-furlong Polynesian Sept. 5 at Laurel.
“We’re close to a month between races so I’m comfortable with the timeline. He came out of the Laurel Park race clean,” Dilodovico said. “He got kind of bounced around early on and when that happens it’s not uncommon for him to get kind of out of sorts, but we didn’t have that issue so we were able to just proceed right along and he gave us a nice breeze last weekend.”
While he has enjoyed success over his home track at Laurel, where he ran second in last year’s De Francis, Laki is winless in two tries at Pimlico. He was fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 2017 and 2018 Maryland Sprint (G3), not run this year but previously part of the Preakness program that was postponed from May 16 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We just kind of let him move into the race without being too keyed up. The thing about him is, his first two race attempts here at Pimlico have not been that good, so earlier in the spring I wasn’t looking to run him back in the Maryland Sprint Handicap at that time. But, we’ll give it a shot,” Dilodovico said. “Maybe the Covid worked out for him because that little bit of extra time probably was a blessing for him. Not that he was doing poorly, but I just think time for most horses is important. He’s an older guy and we’ll try to keep him around a couple more years and maybe try to do some of the stuff we did with Immortal Eyes.”
Regular rider Horacio Karamanos will be aboard from Post 4.
Robert D. Bone’s Eastern Bay, who beat Laki by 1 ¼ lengths in the Polynesian, will be just inside Laki in Post 3 under Angel Cruz. The 6-year-old gelding has won three of four starts since being claimed in February by leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez.
“He’s a classy horse, very classy. He likes what I do with him and he shows it when he runs. He’s a nice horse for any trainer to have. He breezes well and does everything right,” Gonzalez said. “If you look back at his lifetime races, all the time this horse tries. Those are the kind of horses we like to claim.”
Haltered for $35,000, Eastern Bay was nearly but back in for the same tag until Gonzalez convinced Bone otherwise. He has responded with the best stretch of his life, which includes 10 wins and $419,184 in purse earnings from 33 starts.
“Bob Bone is very happy. He wanted to put him in again for the [$35,000] but I said this horse was showing me he’s going to be OK. We decide not to put him in for the claim again and now he’s won the stake.”
Eastern Bay’s only loss with Gonzalez came in an open allowance Aug. 20 at Laurel going seven furlongs. Eastern Bay has a record of 7-1-1 from 16 tries at the De Francis distance.
“That day when he ran seven it looked like he was going to win the race and then he stopped,” Gonzalez said. “I believe that six furlongs is a better distance for him.”
Rounding out the field are Admiral Lynch, third in last year’s Chick Lang (G3) at Pimlico and second in the World of Trouble Sprint (G3) in February; 2019 Gallant Bob (G2) runner-up Landeskog; Midtowncharlybrown, whose 11 career wins include four stakes; 2019 Woody Stephens (G1) and Amsterdam (G2) runner-up Nitrous; and 8-year-old 13-time winner Krsto Skye, exiting a second in the Smile Sprint (G2) Sept. 5 at Gulfstream Park.
Florida Shipper Liza Star Looks to Spring Upset in $100,000 Skipat
Ron Paolucci Racing’s Liza Star, venturing outside of South Florida for only the second time in 34 lifetime starts, goes after her second career stakes win in Saturday’s $100,000 Skipat.
The 27th running of the six-furlong Skipat for fillies and mares 3 and up, named for the Barbara Fritchie (G3) winner of 1979 and 1981 among her 26 lifetime victories, is the third of a 12-race, all-stakes Preakness Day program.
Lisa Star is an 11-time winner whose lone stakes triumph came in the 2019 Claiming Crown Glass Slipper at Gulfstream Park. The speedy 6-year-old mare exits a one-length loss while running third to Heiressall in the seven-furlong Sheer Drama Sept. 6 over her home track.
One start prior, her first away from Gulfstream or Gulfstream Park West, Liza Star was third, beaten 1 ½ lengths, in a six-furlong optional claiming allowance July 21 at Saratoga, where she remained to train before returning for the Sheer Drama.
“She’s doing really good. Honestly, under better circumstances, I really believe she would have won last time. She worked on a Monday at Saratoga, she shipped on Tuesday, she got into Gulfstream Wednesday, we walked Thursday and she had two days of training before her race,” trainer Peter Walder said. “It was just not the ideal way to go into it.
“Turning for home, it looked like she was going to win. It looked like she was loaded; she got beat by a nice horse,” he added. “Not taking anything away from the winner, I truly believe if I was at home and worked there and didn’t have to ship, I don’t think she would have beat me.”
Walder brought Liza Star early to Pimlico, where she breezed a half-mile in 48.80 seconds Tuesday. Florent Geroux will ride from Post 4 in a field of seven.
“Coming into this, I shipped up here and wanted to get a work over the track. I think she’ll like this racetrack. If she shows up with her ‘A’ game I think she’ll be tough to beat,” Walder said. “Speed’s pretty tough over this track so hopefully she takes to it and we should be OK.”
Lael Stables’ Chalon is a seven-time stakes winner who needs less than $9,000 to reach the $1 million mark in lifetime purse earnings. The 6-year-old mare opened last season with a victory in the Skipat, contested in mid-May and went on to win the Roamin Rachel at Parx and run second in the Bed o’Roses (G3) and Honorable Miss (G2).
This year Chalon won the Dashing Beauty and Incredible Revenge stakes before finishing second after stumbling at the start of the six-furlong Alma North Sept. 5 at Laurel Park. Chalon is cross-entered in the $100,000 The Very One sprinting five furlongs on the turf Thursday at Pimlico.
Never Enough Time, who beat Chalon in the Alma North, and Last True Love, who ran third; Bronx Beauty, winner of the Regret last out at Monmouth Park; multiple stakes winner Bye Bye J; and 2019 Conniver runner-up S W Briar Rose complete the field.