'A serious horse,' Switzerland sprints to De Francis Dash win

Press Release
September 22, 2018 07:11pm
'A serious horse,' Switzerland sprints to De Francis Dash win
Photo: Courtesy of Laurel Park

Woodford Racing’s Switzerland, who had a four-race win streak snapped in his previous start, made a triumphant return to Maryland with a popular 2 ¾-length victory in the Grade 3, $250,000 Xpressbet Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Saturday at Laurel Park.


The 27th running of the six-furlong De Francis for sprinters 3 years old and up was the highlight of a 13-race Fall Festival of Racing program that featured seven stakes, six on Laurel’s world-class turf course, worth $900,000 in purses.


Switzerland ($5.60), sent off the 9-5 favorite in a field of eight older horses, led from start to finish to earn his second career graded-stakes win, following the Maryland Sprint (G3) May 19 at legendary Pimlico Race Course. The winning time was 1:09.11 over a fast main track.


It was the third stakes win of the day for jockey Feargal Lynch, who previously captured the $100,000 Laurel Futurity, presented by B&B Commercial Interiors, on Order and Law and the $100,000 Laurel Dash, presented by Fidelity First, aboard Class and Cash.


Switzerland, a 4-year-old son of champion sprinter Speightstown trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, added his name to an impressive list of De Francis winners that includes Hall of Famer Housebuster and fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Benny the Bull.


Named for the late president and chairman of both Laurel and Pimlico, this year’s De Francis marked the fifth and final race in the 3-year-old and up dirt sprint division of the revived Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series, an assortment of 25 races at tracks in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which kicked off May 18 and 19 at Pimlico. The original MATCH Series debuted in 1997 and ran for five years.


In the irons for the first time, Lynch let Switzerland pull him to the front after breaking from the rail post, and they edged past 21-1 long shot Colonel Sharp to go the opening quarter-mile in 22.83 seconds. They settled through a half-mile in 45.72 and found themselves with a 3 ½-length lead entering the stretch, where Switzerland dug in under Lynch’s steady encouragement to the wire.


Laki, never far from the lead in the early going, launched a bid at the three-eighths pole and chased the winner down the stretch, finishing 1 ¾-lengths ahead of Grade 1-placed closer Sweetontheladies. Colonel Sharp, Lewisfield, The Man, Arthur’s Hope and Always Sunshine completed the order of finish. 


“Steve said to me he doesn’t always break that sharp. He didn’t break that sharp the last time and he rushed up in there, and he didn’t want me to do that again,” Lynch said. “This is a really nice horse. He’s a serious horse. He’s so natural and so speedy.


“It was never in doubt but it took him a while to switch leads and it wasn’t until the sixteenth pole that he switched on me and he just found a little bit more,” he added. “He was just doing enough in front.”


Switzerland also drew the rail in his previous effort, the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) July 28 at Saratoga, where he wound up a well-beaten fifth. Purchased for $500,000 as a 2-year-old in training, four of his five career wins have come at six furlongs.


“He broke probably second and he was able to get up in there, and I was able to get him to relax and hoped he’d be able to stay on,” Lynch said. “I’m just glad we got the job done.”


Nick Dilodovico saddled Switzerland for Asmussen. Dilodovico, the son of Laurel-based trainer Damon Dilodovico – who trains runner-up Laki – works as an assistant to trainer Tom Morley, who stabled Switzerland for the De Francis.


“The horse came in good. He was quiet and collected. Pretty professional horse,” Nick Dilodovico said. “He walked off fine. It looks like the race didn’t take too much out of him.”


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