GENERAL GEORGE: GRADED SHIPPERS LOOM LARGE
While Maryland-based horses may make a big impact on Saturday’s General George Stakes, they’ll have to find a way to beat a couple of accomplished runners shipping in, including Majestic Dunhill and morning line favorite Funny Guy.
R.A. Hill Stable’s Grade 3 winner Majestic Dunhill, 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 Saturday’s $250,000 General George (G3) at Laurel Park.
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The 45th running of the General George for 4-year-olds and up and the 69th edition of the $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older, both sprinting seven furlongs, highlight a Winter Sprintfest program of six stakes worth $900,000 in purses.
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.).
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.
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 Grade 3 Fall Highweight. The 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding will be making his third start this year, after being 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.
In addition to these and the five Maryland-based entrants, a pair of Parx shippers will also contest the General George. Chilly in Charge, trained by Miguel Vera for Newtown Anner Stud, has won two of his last three, both in allowance company. He was a near-miss second in the 2019 City of Laurel Stakes here at the same seven-furlong distance. J. D. Acosta will ride.
And trainer Uriah St. Lewis will send out Informative for his own Trin-Brook Stables. An allowance winner two back, he ran second in the 2019 James F. Lewis, III Stakes at Laurel Park. Roimes Chirinos will ride.