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Grade 3 winner Majestic Dunhill (R.A. Hill Stables), exiting a pair of disappointing efforts off a career-best performance, trades the South Florida sunshine for Maryland's winter chill as he attempts to regain his winning form in the $250,000 General George Stakes (G3) at Laurel Park on Saturday, February 13.
The 45th running of the General George for 4-year-olds and up and the 69th edition of the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie Stakes for fillies and mares 4 and older, both sprinting seven furlongs, highlight a Winter Sprintfest program of six stakes worth $900,000 in purses.
Sophomores will be in the spotlight in the $100,00 Miracle Wood going one mile and $100,000 Wide Country for fillies at seven furlongs, while older horses will contest the $100,000 Nellie Morse for females and $100,000 John B. Campbell, each at about 1 1/16 miles.
Post time for the first of nine races is 12:25 p.m. The General George is carded as Race 8 (3:53 p.m.).
Race 8 at Laurel Park on Saturday, February 20 - Post 3:53 PM
|2||Funny Guy||9-5||Sheldon Russell
|John Terranova II|
|4||Majestic Dunhill||10-1||Feargal Lynch
|5||Fortunate Friends||20-1||Jevian Toledo
|6||Share the Ride||3-1||Victor Carrasco
|Uriah St. Lewis|
|8||Arthur's Hope||20-1||Alcibiades Cortez
|9||Chilly in Charge||12-1||J. Acosta
No horse will have traveled farther for the General George than Majestic Dunhill, a 6-year-old gelding who is no stranger to Laurel or the race, having finished second by a length to Uncontested as a 25-1 long shot in 2019. He has placed in three stakes since, including the 2019 Polynesian at Laurel, and beat Share the Ride by a head to capture the seven-furlong Bold Ruler (G3) in the mud on Halloween at Belmont Park.
Following the Bold Ruler, Majestic Dunhill was unsettled in the starting gate and got stuck racing inside when seventh, beaten 4 ½ lengths by Share the Ride, in the six-furlong Fall Highweight (G3) Nov. 28 at Aqueduct. Trainer George Weaver wheeled him back in three weeks for the seven-furlong Mr. Prospector Dec. 19 at Gulfstream Park, losing all chance after being bounced around at the start and finishing 10th.
"He won the Bold Ruler there at Belmont and we were delighted with it. We always felt like he had a graded-stake with his name on it," Weaver said. "I tried him six furlongs in his next spot, he broke bad and didn't run a [bit]. I ran him back too quick [in Florida] and he didn't run a [bit], but we freshened him up a little bit.
"The horse is doing great," he added. "He had a great work and he's always run well at Laurel, so we're going to take another shot at it. He's run in the race before and run well, so it looks like a good opportunity for the horse and we're happy to be in it."
Weaver feels Majestic Dunhill heads into the General George more prepared than he did the Mr. Prospector, whose winner, Sleepy Eyes Todd, would go on to run fourth to Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Knicks Go in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 23.
"Gulfstream's a funny track. If you don't get away a little bit it's really hard to make up ground unless you get some pace in front of you," Weaver said. "The horse didn't break running [at Aqueduct]; he kind of got in a tangle and even after that didn't do much running. I brought him down here and ran him on short rest without breezing him and it was probably my fault. He really wasn't ready to fire big. I was running just to take a shot and it didn't work out, but now we've got our I's dotted and our T's crossed and we're ready to roll."
In addition to the General George and Polynesian, both with jockey Feargal Lynch aboard, Majestic Dunhill won the City of Laurel Stakes in 2018 and was third in the 2017 Laurel Futurity on turf in previous trips to Maryland. Feargal Lynch, who returned Feb. 7 from a seven-month absence due to injury, will ride from Post 4 in a field of 10.
"He's been beat there but he won the stake late in his 3-year-old year, then came back and ran a huge second at big odds in the General George. Every time he's run there, he runs well," Weaver said. "I don't know what it is about the track. That race, every year since he's run well, has been in the back of my mind. We didn't catch it last year. The horse was on a bit of a break, but this year we were able to make it and we're glad."
Majestic Dunhill, a five-time winner with more than $375,000 in purse earnings from 23 starts, is listed at 10-1 on the morning line.
"I feel bad for him. I've been throwing him to the wolves, but he's been a hardy horse," Weaver said. "He's 6 years old now and we've had him since he was a baby. He's just an old war horse. I used him as Vekoma's workmate. He's the only horse I had in my barn that could work heads-up with him. He's been useful to us in many ways. He's been a real fun racehorse to have, and we hope he can get it done."
Randy Hill also shares an ownership stake with Gatsas Stables and Swick Stable in Funny Guy, the 9-5 program favorite for the General George.
Based in New York with trainer John Terranova, the 5-year-old son of 2008 Preakness (G1) winner Big Brown is a five-time stakes winner against New York-breds who was second in the Vosburgh (G2) and fourth in the Forego (G1) last year and most recently second in the seven-furlong Say Florida Sandy Jan. 9 at Aqueduct. Sheldon Russell is named to ride from Post 2.
Breaking from the rail with regular rider Horacio Karamanos will be Hillside Equestrian Meadows' 8-year-old gelding Laki, rallying nose winner of the six-furlong Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) on the 2020 Preakness undercard. The De Francis was Laki's first graded attempt since finishing third in the 2019 General George, 1 ¼ lengths behind Majestic Dunhill.
Laki exits back-to-back fourth-place finishes, each going six furlongs, in the Dec. 26 Dave's Friend and Jan. 16 Fire Plug, the latter as the favorite after clipping heels early in the race and never able to find his stride. The second and third-place finishers, Share the Ride and Lebda, also return in the General George.
"Any kind of stumble or clipping heels or checking at that level is definitely going to compromise them, but he kind of fooled me going into that race. I just thought he was super sharp and he didn't kick," trainer Damon Dilodovico said. "They're not machines. They all have bad days, but he hasn't had many.
"He's unbelievable, he is. He is a godsend, this guy," he added. "He just does his work. He's easy in the barn."
Laki has won at least one stakes every year since 2017 and owns six overall, four of them coming at Laurel, where he has a record of 8-7-3 from 21 starts. He is the richest horse in the field, with $715,662 in purse earnings.
"Hopefully he can make another good showing for himself. He definitely doesn't owe me anything," Dilodovico said of the 9-2 morning line third choice. "Hopefully he can make some noise."
Euro Stable's Lebda was third in the 2019 Iroquois (G3) and won Laurel's one-mile Miracle Wood and 1 1/16-mile Private Terms last winter before the coronavirus pandemic paused live racing in Maryland for 2 ½ months. He has gone winless in six starts since returning, including a fifth in the Dave's Friend and third in the Fire Plug after missing time with a minor injury.
"For me he ran really good last time. He's running with the older horses now. The last one was good," winter meet-leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez said. "The time before he had a little problem and was off for a couple months and he needed a race, and the last time he showed a little more. I was very happy how he ran and how he is doing now."
Lebda dueled for the early lead and forged a short advantage after a half-mile in the Fire Plug before being passed late and settling for third, beaten 2 ½ lengths. Alex Cintron, up for eight of his last nine races including both stakes wins, gets the return call from Post 3.
"The last race he was going easy and the outside horse pushed him and that's why he had to move soon. If he was able to keep going and nobody come from the outside I think we could have win the race," Gonzalez said. "I believe six, seven furlongs are going to be good for him. I like it."
Silvino Ramirez's Share the Ride ran third behind Firenze Fire and Funny Guy in the Vosburgh and second to Majestic Dunhill in the Bold Ruler before capturing a seven-furlong allowance at Parx and turning the tables in the Fall Highweight.
The 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding will be making his third start this year, caught at the wire by Wendell Fong in the Fire Plug at Laurel and finishing third as the favorite in the seven-furlong Toboggan (G3) two weeks later at Aqueduct.
Three horses - Tattooed, Chilly in Charge and Fortunate Friends - enter the General George off wins. Holt, Montuori and Palumbo Racing Stable's Tattooed became a stakes winner for the first time by rallying from last to first and stick his neck out at the wire in the one-mile Jennings for Maryland-bred/sired horses Jan. 16 at Laurel.
William McCarty's Fortunate Friends will be racing first time off the claim for trainer Shaun Morrow, who took the 5-year-old gelding for $35,000 out of a Dec. 11 win at Laurel for Dilodovico. Newtown Anner Stud Farm's stakes winner Chilly in Charge, beaten a neck by Honest Mischief in the 2019 City of Laurel, won an optional claimer Jan. 4 at Parx going seven furlongs.
Raul DelValle's stakes winner Arthur's Hope, a seven-furlong allowance winner last July at Laurel, and Trin-Brook Stables, Inc.'s Informative, second in the 2019 James F. Lewis III and fourth in the 2020 Concern at Laurel, complete the field.
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