Avoiding stretch traffic that caused a couple of rivals to alter momentum, Killybegs Captain rallied inside down the Laurel Park stretch Sept. 21 to win the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes (G3) over hard-knocking Ohio-bred Altissimo.
The De Francis provided Killybegs Captain with his second stakes victory in eight starts this year and his first graded score. Winner of the Pelican Stakes Feb. 16 at Tampa Bay Downs for owner Curragh Stables, he was third in the John A. Nerud Stakes (G2) July 6 at Belmont Park and third in the Forego Stakes Presented by Encore Boston Harbor (G1) at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 24, beaten 3 3/4 lengths by Mitole—one of the nation’s best sprinters—in his most recent graded start.
Although he faced a solid stakes group at Laurel, none were in Mitole’s class, and it showed when Killybegs Captain kicked into gear after being rated in fourth, nine lengths off the pace under jockey Eric Cancel. He pulled within 5 1/2 lengths after a half-mile and then made the lead inside the final furlong when frontrunning Old Time Revival began to tire, drifting out in the path of Altissimo and third-place He Hate Me.
“I had a lot of confidence. The horse has been training very good,” said Cancel, who rode him for trainer John Terranova. “I’ve been watching him work in the mornings and he’s been running his last few races super good. He’s in very good shape. I never had a doubt that he could win this race.”
The second favorite in the field of six, Killybegs Captain returned $7.80 to win. He is a 5-year-old son of Mizzen Mast out of the Holy Bull mare Al Maha. Curragh Racing bought him for $75,000 from the consignment of Cary Frommer at the 2016 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.
Altissimo was a clear second, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of 6-5 favorite He Hate Me. It was another two lengths back to Maryland Sprint Stakes (G3) winner New York Central in fourth, followed by Bon Raison and Old Time Revival. The latter, who blitzed out of the gate with splits of :21.74 and :44.37, weakened to lose by 8 3/4 lengths.
Wonderful Light and Sparticle were scratched.
Killybegs Captain’s winning time of 1:08.10 on a fast main track was the fastest De Francis since Richter Scale’s course record of 1:07.95 in 2000.
The race was one of eight stakes worth $1.3 million at Laurel, most of them run on the grass