by Frank Vespe
The deep, slow Laurel Park racing strip didn’t exactly play to speed or closers today. Instead, it played to fitness.
The three horses dialing back from longer distances to seven furlongs, including winner Gypsy Judy, occupied the top three spots in the seven-furlong Wide Country Stakes. The three runners who had mile victories finished one-two-four in the Miracle Wood, among them winner Savvy Street.
And in today’s featured $250,000 Grade 3 General George Handicap, a 7-furlong event, late-running Misconnect, trained by Bruce Levine for Repole Stable, wore down longshot Cutty Shark to post a neck victory. Misconnect’s last five starts, including one a month ago, had all come at a mile or longer. Cutty Shark, by contrast, had not gone farther than seven furlongs in any of his last 10 starts and became visibly tired in the late stages of the race.
It was two lengths back to Souper Knight in third and another length back to Perilous Indian.
At 11-1, Misconnect, who paid $24.40 to win, was the shortest-priced winner of the quartet and toped a $403 exacta and a colossal $18.074.50 dime superfecta.
“My horse broke really well and I thought if I kept him close he would finish the last eighth of a mile and win,” said Kendrick Carmouche, who rode Misconnect for the second straight time. “But I knew I had to keep him close. If you look at his races, he only wins from the sixteenth pole. If he’s in contention, he will win. But if he’s too far off, he won’t make up the distance.”
Cutty Shark, in fourth early, moved wide around the turn and forged to a two-length lead in mid-stretch.
“I got excited for awhile,” said Forest Boyce, who piloted Cutty Shark. “We had a great trip and when I saw an opportunity to make my move I did. He really took off in the lane, but the last few yards I saw that other horse coming and we were second best.”
Cutty Shark seized control as early speed factors Zee Bros and Smash and Grab tired after carving out a half-mile in 46.87 seconds. They would finish 11th and 12th, respectively, while favored Bourbon Courage was never involved en route to a 10th place finish.
Carmouche steered his mount outside and put him in a drive near the three-eighths pole. Leaving the furlong grounds, it appeared he might have too much to do, but he arrived just in time.
“Watching the earlier races today, we knew we wanted to stay away from the rail,” said Fernando Callejas, assistant to trainer Bruce Levine. “The inside looked dead today. Horses were winning from the outside and he came hard from the outside at the finish.”
It was the first stakes victory for Misconnect, a four-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song. He has now won four of nine career starts, and the winner’s share today pushed his earnings to more than $325,000. It was also his first stakes victory.
Running time for the seven furlongs was a sluggish 1:24.67.