LAUREL -- Barry Weisbord is racing's Cupid. He is credited with originating the American Championship Racing Series, which has sponsored lucrative match-ups in 1991, its inaugural year. And he is president of Matchmaker Services, an organization which facilitates deals in the breeding business.
There has been one match, however, that Weisbord has not been able to arrange -- which is somewhat peculiar, considering his personal involvement.
Weisbord is the owner of Safely Kept, one of the best sprinting mares in racing history. Last year, despite a victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Safely Kept was denied a second straight Eclipse Award as the nation's top sprinter. Eclipse voters went instead for Housebuster.
Although Safely Kept, 5, and Housebuster, 4, have maintained relatively busy schedules, they have never met. That should end Saturday, when they clash in the second running of the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Race Course.
Alan Goldberg, trainer of Safely Kept, said yesterday he was not inclined to run her, "But Barry wants me to run.
"If it was up to me, we wouldn't be running," he said. "There are a lot easier races."
Six horses are scheduled to run in the $300,000, six-furlong De Francis, named for the late owner of Laurel and Pimlico race courses. Clever Trevor, Robyn Dancer, Bravely Bold and Sunny Blossom are also likely.
Housebuster will not arrive at Laurel until Friday, while Safely Kept will not be vanned south until the morning of the race. Both are based at Monmouth Park.
Under the allowance conditions of the race, Housebuster is the 126-pound high weight. Craig Perret, who has been suffering from a pinched nerve in his back, will ride her after missing a five-furlong, one-minute workout Monday. Aaron Gryder was aboard the colt for the drill.
"I've taken most of the last week off," Perret said. "I'll probably start riding again [tomorrow]. I should be fine."
Other rider and weight assignments: Safely Kept, Corey Black, 121; Clever Trevor, Don Pettinger, 123; Robyn Dancer, Laffit Pincay Jr., 123; Bravely Bold, Paul Toscano, 123; and Sunny Blossom, Jose Santos, 116.
Post positions will be drawn tomorrow, and although the short field makes them inconsequential, Goldberg is already talking strategy.
"We're going to the front," he said. "I don't know if we can get to the front, but we are going to try."
NOTES: Post time for Saturday is 12:30 p.m., one half-hour earlier than usual. . . . The De Francis Dash will be televised on ABC before Rockingham Park's $500,000 New England Classic,
seventh event in the 10-race ACRS. . . . Safely Kept, 22-for-27 lifetime, has 2 out-of-the-money finishes. One came when she was fourth in last year's inaugural De Francis Dash at Pimlico. She is $605 from hitting the $2 million earnings mark. . . . Robyn Dancer, a 4-year-old, is making a homecoming of sorts. The colt was trained by Marylander Jerry Robb when a narrowly-beaten second to Go And Go in the 1989 Laurel Futurity, then sold soon thereafter for $650,000 to his present connections in California. He is in peak form, having won his last 3 starts at Hollywood Park for trainer Darrell Vienna. . . . One winning exchange ticket, worth $80,658, emptied the Double Triple pool yesterday at Laurel. Track officials said the winner cashed the ticket at Laurel and wished to remain anonymous. . . . Through 10 racing days at
Laurel, there is a tightly bunched group atop the jockey standings. Mike Luzzi, Rick Wilson and Edgar Prado have ridden 10 winners each, one more than Jacinto Vasquez. . . . Liz Frutkoff, wife of longtime track photographer Jerry Frutkoff, died Sunday evening after a lengthy illness. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Hospice of Northern Virginia, 4715 N. 15th St., Arlington, Va. 22205.