When the field was officially drawn yesterday for the $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, there was one semi-surprise.
The owners of Never Wavering came through with a $15,000 late-filing fee and entered their 5-year-old thoroughbred in the race.
It is the first time in the five-year history of the Dash that a so-called supplemental entry will be in the starting lineup.
Never Wavering, listed at 10-1 odds, is one of 11 horses scheduled to run tomorrow in the six-furlong sprint, which is the richest stakes of the summer at Laurel Race Course.
Cherokee Run, last year's Preakness runner-up, is listed as the 2-1 favorite over the New York-based 3-year-old, You And I, who is the second choice at 9-2. The Bobby Frankel-trained runner set a track record of 1 minute, 20 1/5 seconds for seven furlongs in his last start at Belmont Park.
These two horses, and eight others with varying degrees of stakes success, are the animals the owners of Never Wavering are gambling that their horse can beat.
The field also includes Pimlico-based Smart Alec, 6-1; a pair of California 3-year-olds, Individual Style and Fu Man Slew, at 6-1 and 10-1, respectively; Demaloot Demashoot, one of the country's leading 3-year-old sprinters last year, 10-1; the Michael Hushion-trained pair of Chief Desire and Boom Towner, at 15-1 and 20-1, respectively; General George Stakes winner, Blushing Julian, 15-1; and Roman Stakes winner, Lazy Luke, at 30-1.
Elliott Walden, the third-generation Kentucky horseman who trains Never Wavering, said that when nominations for the Dash were originally due at a cost of $500 on June 11, he didn't think his horse was good enough to run in the race.
But since then, Never Wavering has won two more races, including the $100,000 Aristides Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs. "He earned five times what it cost to enter the Dash in the Churchill race and beat Demaloot Demashoot, who is considered a contender here," Walden said. "So I thought he deserved a shot."
Never Wavering arrived at Laurel 10 days ago and was considered a possible Dash starter, although he had not been entered until the final deadline yesterday.
"I had run a horse here in the Fort McHenry Stakes on July 4," Walden said, referring to Lindon Lime, who finished fourth in the 10-furlong grass stakes after encountering traffic problems. "So I just switched horses and sent Never Wavering here to take that one's place."
Walden, 31, has 32 horses in training, split almost evenly between Churchill Downs and Arlington International Racecourse. His older brother, Ben Walden Jr., operates The Vinery, a Midway, Ky., farm that stands 20 stallions, including $2 million-earner Lost Code.
Walden added that it would have cost the owners of Never Wavering $8,000 to run in the Dash if they had followed normal nominating procedures. "So really they are putting up only an extra $7,000 to start and it is split three ways," he said.
The owners of Never Wavering are V. L. Fisher and John Sullivan, two doctors from the Midwest, and the Texas-based Prestonwood Farm.
Cherokee Run, who has run in Grade I competition in New York including a second to Holy Bull in the Metropolitan Mile, drew the rail.
The only local entrant is the 6-year-old horse, Smart Alec, who won the Housebuster Stakes in his last start at Laurel. Although 30-1 long shot Lazy Luke is stabled at Pimlico Race Course, that horse is part of the large Bob Camac stable, which is principally based at Philadelphia Park.
Two other local horses, Montbrook and Secret Odds, were considered possible Dash starters. But Montbrook, last year's winner, developed a bruise in his foot last week and was not
entered. Secret Odds aggravated an old ankle injury and was withdrawn on Monday.
FRANK J. DE FRANCIS MEMORIAL DASH
Post time: 5:06 p.m. tomorrow
Purse: $300,000: 1st $180,000; 2nd $60,000; 3rd $33,000; 4th $18,000; 5th $9,000.
Distance: 6 furlongs.
Track record: 1 minute, 8 seconds (Fighting Notion, 1992).
Stakes record: 1:08 3/5 seconds (Montbrook, 1993 and Housebuster, 1991).
PP, Horse, Wt., Jockey, Trainer, Odds
1, Cherokee Run, 114, Craig Perret, Frank Alexander, 2-1
2, Individual Style*, 110, Chris Antley, Ron Penton, 6-1
3, Chief Desire, 119, Richard Migliore, Michael Hushion, 15-1
4, Never Wavering*, 117, Shane Sellers, Elliott Walden, 10-1
5, You And I, 112, Robbie Davis, Bobby Frankel, 9-2
6, Fu Man Slew, 107, Joe Bravo, Kim Lloyd, 10-1
7, Blushing Julian*, 123, Jeff Lloyd, Allen Iwinski, 15-1
8, Lazy Luke, 114, Santos Chavez, Bob Camac, 30-1
9, Demaloot Demashoot*, 119, Mike Luzzi, Mark Hennig, 10-1
10, Smart Alec*, 114, Mario Pino, Dick Delp, 6-1
11, Boom Towner*, 119, Frank Lovato Jr, Michael Hushion, 20-1
* -- denotes treated with Lasix