Awesome Banner gets the call in De Francis Dash

The Grade III De Francis Dash drew seven stout sprinters for a six-furlong clash on Laurel Park’s main oval. Some of the east coast’s best short-distance runners will line up for the start at approximately 5:10 p.m. EST. The De Francis Dash is the ninth of 12 races on the day at Laurel. In addition to watching and wagering, don’t forget to try out FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#3 AWESOME BANNER (7-2) gets some class relief after running into two straight buzzsaws in El Deal, who won the Grade I Vanderbilt by eight, and next-out winner Imperial Hint. AWESOME BANNER lost to WHITMORE when they met in a stake on the Preakness undercard, but only by a half-length. WHITMORE is a bit of a wild card now having not run since disappointing in the True North in June. Anyone who’s skeptical about WHITMORE returning to the winner’s circle should look to AWESOME BANNER as the logical upset candidate. He’ll be reunited with Tyler Gaffalione, who comes off a successful stay at Kentucky Downs.

#4 WHITMORE (7-5, morning-line favorite) is a deserving favorite based on speed figures as he seeks to rebound off a third-place effort in the True North. Prior to that start he’d won five straight sprints, including the Grade III Count Fleet. Ricardo Santana Jr. stayed home to ride Churchill’s opening weekend, but Maryland mainstay Feargal Lynch will have the assignment.

#7 FAVORITE TALE (5-1) is a multiple graded stakes winner but has raced just twice since 2015. However, he was a respectable second off an extended layoff at Parx earlier this month. He has the speed to make the lead, and Paco Lopez sees fit to ship in for this lone mount. He should give the top two a fight to the finish.

The play: $3 trifecta 3,4/3,4/7, $4 exacta 3/4 ($10)

DFJ analysis: Tyler Gaffalione has six mounts at Laurel on Saturday, all in stakes races. Chief among them is AWESOME BANNER in the De Francis Dash, followed by favored Manitoulin in the Laurel Turf Cup. Gaffalione looks like a wise investment.

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