Belmont Park is carding its own Grade II sprint, the True North Handicap, today in direct competition with Laurel's Grade II Frank J. De Francis Dash.
But Frank Alexander, who stables Cherokee Run as well as the rest of his large stable of runners at Belmont, said Marylanders should expect to see his horse at Laurel instead of New York.
"The money," Alexander said.
Laurel is offering a $300,000 purse for the De Francis Dash compared to the $100,000 the New York Racing Association is putting up for the True North.
Alexander said Cherokee Run hasn't run as short as the Dash distance of six furlongs in quite some time. "But this is a pretty fast little horse. He was on the lead in his last start at seven furlongs and just got beat by a head," Alexander said, referring to the horse's loss in the Tom Fool Handicap to Virginia Rapids. "But he's versatile and can also come from off the pace."
Alexander said Craig Perret, who won the De Francis Dash in
1991 with Housebuster, will ride Cherokee Run.
But can he outrun Fu Man Slew?
One thing that seems for sure, the horse the rest of the De Francis field, including Cherokee Run, will have to catch is a gritty little California-bred named Fu Man Slew.
"You can count on it," said the colt's trainer, Kim Lloyd. "No one is faster than my horse, at least for a quarter of a mile. And the thing is, you don't have to pressure him to do it. He's just that quick and he's having fun."
Fu Man Slew's usual first quarter is run in 21 seconds and change. The only horse in the De Francis Dash capable of matching that is local runner Secret Odds, last year's De Francis pacesetter who tired after running a half mile in 44 3/5 seconds.
Lloyd said Fu Man Slew works out this morning at Hollywood Park, will be put on a plane tomorrow and will be at Laurel on Tuesday morning.
Danny Sorenson regularly rides the 3-year-old colt, but Lloyd has lined up Joe Bravo from Monmouth Park to ride him in the Dash. "The horse gets in at 107 pounds and Danny has trouble doing that weight," Lloyd said.
Lloyd, 39, has a 16-horse string stabled at Hollywood Park. The day after the Dash, he runs Dr. Pain in the $150,000 Bel Air Handicap at the California track.
Another West Coast 3-year-old, Individual Style, who beat Fu Man Slew in his last start at 7 1/2 furlongs, is already stabled on the Laurel grounds.
Are nation's top sprinters racing here?
A Laurel Race Course press release last week said the country's finest sprinters are running in the De Francis Dash. But are they?
Right now, the division is wide open, although arguably the nation's top two sprinters are Virginia Rapids on the East Coast and Memo on the West Coast.
But the best distance for both of those horses is from seven furlongs to a mile, a bit further than the six-furlong De Francis Dash. Neither horse was nominated to the race, although Laurel racing officials said yesterday that Dick Mandella, trainer of Memo, might supplement his horse to the Dash on Thursday at a cost of $15,000.
Hollywood Park publicist Vince Bruun said last week that a case can be made to describe Individual Style or the more lightly raced Fu Man Slew as being the West Coast's best sprinters at the six-furlong distance.
In the East, the fastest horse at six furlongs could be Cherokee Run since he had the lead at that point in the East Coast's only Grade I sprint so far, the Carter Handicap.
So perhaps, the Laurel press release is not far off the mark.
The Dash is loaded with fast horses. Nine of the 12 preliminary entries are graded stakes winners, including Blushing Julian, Boom Towner, Cherokee Run, Chief Desire, Demaloot Demashoot, Individual Style, Secret Odds, Smart Alec and You And I.
The three nongraded stakes-winning entrants are Fu Man Slew, Lazy Luke and Munch N' Nosh.
New stable plans well-received
Richard Hoffberger, president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemens' Association, said his group's board of directors is generally receptive to a new plan that will keep the Laurel Race Course stable area in Anne Arundel County should a Redskins stadium be built on ground currently occupied by the present horse barns.
"The basic thought is that this is the best plan proposed so far," Hoffberger said.
The new barns would be built east of the current stable area on land roughly in the vicinity of the current maintenance shop area. Then the so-called "White House," formerly the residence of former Laurel GM Frank Brady and now used as accounting offices, would be torn down, and Lasix and receiving barns would be built there next to the paddock.
The number of stalls would drop from about 900 to 750, but additional stables could be built at the Bowie Training Center if they are needed.
"Obviously, we could use a few more stalls, but this plan might work. We'll have to find out more details," Hoffberger said.
The Howard County Planning Commission recently voted 4-0 to turn down a request to locate a new stabling area in a section of the track located in its jurisdiction that is now used for parking.
Finkelstein not blue over 'Stormy'
De Niro is the fastest of the 2-year-old colts that have run so far in New York this summer.
But a Maryland owner, Harriet Finkelstein, might have the fastest filly.
A couple of weeks ago, Finkelstein's filly, Stormy Blues, won her first start at Belmont Park by 16 lengths.
"After the race, my trainer, Scotty Schulhofer, said I wouldn't need a plane to fly home," Finkelstein recalled.
Finkelstein purchased the filly at the Florida sales this spring for $115,000 and sent her to Schulhofer. The filly's next start is scheduled for the $200,000 Grade III Sorority Stakes at &r; Monmouth Park on Aug. 6. Jose Santos is the rider.
Finkelstein and a partner, Lillian Solomon of Washington, also have purchased a Chief's Crown colt named Danny's Crown in Florida and have sent him to Pimlico trainer, Frannie Campitelli. Campitelli said the colt, who is a half-brother to Grade I winner, Senor Pete, and is out of a sister to Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, should race at Laurel sometime this fall. Finkelstein started with a one-horse stable just a few years ago and now owns a dozen thoroughbreds.
Philadelphia Park is shutting down from Aug. 8 through Aug. 25. The Pennsylvania track has been running four-day weeks recently, but will start back with five-day race weeks in September, said track spokeswoman Geri Mercer. . . . Laurel management is negotiating with the New York Racing Association to start simulcasting full cards from the upcoming Saratoga meet. . . . A citizens group that supports the Maryland Jockey Club's proposal to build a track in Virginia's Loudoun County is holding a news conference in Leesburg at 11 a.m. tomorrow. The group is working to ensure that an Aug. 2 referendum will be passed upholding the right to allow pari-mutuel racing in the county.