Over the years, thousands of horses have passed through Dick Dutrow's barn door.
But the one he regards as the most talented will run tomorrow at Laurel Park.
It is Lite The Fuse, the double-graded New York stakes winner who drew the rail and is heavily favored at 6-5 odds to win Maryland's richest sprint, the $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.
A field of eight horses was entered yesterday to compete in the sixth running of the Grade II six-furlong stakes.
"Maybe he [Lite The Fuse] doesn't have the big fighting heart of King's Swan," Dutrow said, referring to the now-retired gelding whom he claimed and trained during the late 1980s, who won 10 major New York stakes. "But I'd say this horse has more natural ability. I don't think he's ever put out 100 percent yet for me in any of his races."
But, he added, when jockey Julie Krone breaks tomorrow from the 1-post, "all she has to do is wait to push the button. It doesn't matter where he breaks from. All this horse needs is an even break and to like the track. It's going to take racing luck [by the others] to beat him."
By post time, expect the price on Lite The Fuse to proceed downward, perhaps to the same 4-5 level the horse started at a few weeks ago at Belmont Park, and to which responded with a near five-length win in the Tom Fool Handicap.
If Lite The Fuse wins the Dash, Dutrow said he'll consider using part of the winner's share of $180,000 to supplement the colt whom he bred and owns to the $1 million Breeders Cup Sprint at Belmont on Oct. 28.
"I had four or five foals out of this colt's dam," Dutrow said. "None of them amounted to much. So when this one was born, I didn't pay the $500 to nominate him to the Breeders' Cup. Now it's going to cost me $120,000 to run. But if he wins, he earns $560,000."
Despite the heat wave, Dutrow arrived at Laurel yesterday with his "horse of a lifetime," bedded him down in Dean Gaudet's big barn that has already housed one De Francis Dash winner, Montbrook in 1993, and seemed to be sitting chilly.
He said he's not worried about the opposition.
Although seven other horses were entered, expect only six of them to run against Lite The Fuse.
Local trainer Ron Cartwright said he's "90 percent sure" he'll scratch Crumpton for weight reasons.
DE FRANCIS DASH
What: Grade II, 6-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up
When: Tomorrow, 5:35 p.m. post time. It will be the 10th race on Laurel's 11-race live card that starts at 1 p.m.
Where: Laurel Park
TV: ESPN2 "Racing Today," 5-6 p.m.
Purse: $300,000. Winner earns $180,000, second $60,000, third $30,000, fourth $18,000, fifth $12,000
Field: Eight horses are entered; seven are expected to run. Lite The Fuse is favored at 6-5 odds, followed by Goldminer's Dream, 9-2; Commanche Trail, 5-1; Exclusive Praline, 6-1; Friendly Lover 8-1; Hot Jaws 10-1, and Crafty Dude, 10-1. Crumpt on, 15-1, is expected to be scratched.
Track record: 1 minute, 8 seconds (Fighting Notion, 1992)
Stakes record: 1:08 3/5, shared by Montbrook (1993) and Housebuster (1991)