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The men, Housebuster in particular, will be too tough for Safely Kept


Safely Kept is the sentimental favorite to win the second running of the Frank De Francis Memorial Dash.

But here's thinking she will be upset by her nemesis, Housebuster.

The $300,000 sprint stakes is set as the ninth race at Laurel tomorrow with an estimated post time of 4:42 p.m.

Safely Kept should be the popular choice. The 5-year-old mare is a two-time Maryland-bred Horse of the Year, the only Maryland-bred ever to win a Breeders' Cup race and a daughter of the state's leading stallion, Horatius, whose hard-knocking progeny see constant action at state tracks.

But sentiment is one thing. There is no doubt this mare, with earnings of nearly $2 million and a record of 22 wins in 27 starts, is one of the finest sprinting mares in history.

But when she meets males she's vulnerable, and she meets five very fast ones tomorrow.

Despite a lackluster race in his last start in the Metropolitan Mile and the reputation that he's gone off form, the 4-year-old colt Housebuster would not be running against Safely Kept if his trainer, Jimmy Croll, didn't think he could win.

Let's call it the "Hansel Syndrome." Hansel was a last-minute ship-in for the Preakness after a dull race in the Kentucky Derby, and he won convincingly.

Does Housebuster fit into this pattern? It certainly seems so.

Croll didn't decide until after a Monday workout that he would definitely start Housebuster, and when he did, Craig Perret, who rides both horses, chose the colt over Safely Kept.

That is significant. No one knows Safely Kept better than Perret, and he's on the opposition.

Croll is not shipping Housebuster to Laurel to be disgraced on national television.

As for the other four starters, Robyn Dancer and Clever Trevor have the best chance to upset.

Darrell Vienna, the trainer of Robyn Dancer, gained a great deal of credibility when he won the Budweiser International last fall with Swing Til Dawn. He has turned Robyn Dancer from a loser into a winner in recent months, and is the best bet at a price.

Clever Trevor has won $1 million, can come from off the pace, and is the one to kick in late if the speed falters.

Sunny Blossom, who hasn't won a race in over a year, and Bravely Bold, are pace-setters, who should be hung out to dry after dueling with Safely Kept for a half-mile.

The De Francis Dash can be seen on "Wide World of Sports," Channel 13, on a delayed tape basis, probably about 5:10 p.m.

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