Candyman E is coming to Laurel Park Saturday to run in the Frank De Francis Memorial Dash. He knows nothing about the De Francis or it's history. But his trainer Tony Dutrow does.
Dutrow grew up here. His father, Dick, won the De Francis with Lite The Fuse in 1995 and 1996, and his brother, Rick, won with Benny the Bull in 2007.
But Dutrow isn't interested in history. The only thing that concerns him is his horse and stretching his winning streak to four.
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Rte 198 & Laurel Race Track Rd, Maryland City, MD 20724, USA
"I'm very matter of fact here," Dutrow said. "I don't care about the name of the race or the state that it's in. What's important to me is that it's a $150,000 race. Candyman E is coming and he's coming at the top of his game."
It's a condition recognized by Laurel Park oddsmaker Frank Carulli, who has installed him as the 2-1 morning line favorite.
Candyman E is one of 10 sprinters entered for the 20th running of the De Francis, which as a Grade I race was a stepping stone to Eclipse Awards for four of its past winners — Housebuster (1991), Cherokee Run (1994), Smoke Glacken (1997) and Thor's Echo (2006).
Also on Saturday's card are the $75,000 Lady Baltimore Stakes and the $60,000 Twixt Stakes. The first post is 1:10 p.m. and the De Francis Dash is set to post at 5:10.
Since 2007, the De Francis has had a difficult time being carded due to purse account shortfalls. It did not run in 2008, was downgraded to Grade II after the 2009 race and did not run in 2010. According to the rules of the American Graded Stakes Committee of Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, a graded race that fails to run in two of three consecutive years must lose its graded status.
"This year there have been a lot of injuries to goodhorses," racing secretary Georganne Hale said when asked about the De Francis field. "But we have some hard knocking horses, and each year the field will improve. Not having the purse money killed us the last several years. But we'll start from the beginning and work our way back up again."
Hale said a race must run for three consecutive years to be considered for graded status, and she expects the De Francis to regain that status after the three-year period. The grade the De Francis may return with will be based on what class of horse runs in the race and how those horses run after racing here.
Dutrow said he isn't thinking about other entries, like Michael Hushion's Sunrise Smarty (9-2) — who has finished first or second in six out of 10 career starts, including runner-up in the Duck Dance Stakes at Belmont Park earlier this month — or the Donald Barr trained Ravalo (5-1), the 2009 De Francis Dash (Grade 1) runner-up, who surpassed the million dollar mark this year and trains at Laurel.
"I get a lot more done thinking about my horse," said Dutrow, who has trained the horse for only his last three starts. "He's led us to the De Francis by what he's proven. I'm anticipating him taking on better horses there than he's seen so far. I'm anticipating some speed."
Which Dutrow said suits Candyman E, a 4-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride.
"He'll probably be a bit off the pace," Dutrow said. "My horse won't be on the lead. He's tactical and he's fast. My horse is coming."