Eastern Bay goes with the flow in General George win

Built Wright Stables’ 9-year-old Eastern Bay, racing closer to the pace than usual, took the lead at the top of the stretch and powered home by 1 ½ lengths to earn his first graded-stakes victory, reach the $1 million mark in career earnings and cap an emotional day in Saturday’s $250,000 General George (G3) at Laurel Park.

The 47th running of the General George for 4-year-olds sprinting seven furlongs was the last of six stakes worth $900,000 in purses on a Winter Carnival program co-headlined by the 71st renewal of the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie (G3) for fillies and mares 4 and up.

Earlier in the day, Coffeewithchris won the $100,000 Miracle Wood for 3-year-olds, Stonewall Star captured the $100,000 Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies, Nimitz Class led all the way the $100,000 John B. Campbell for 4-year-olds and up and Hybrid Eclipse took the $100,000 Nellie Morse for fillies and mares 4 and older.

Eastern Bay ($17.40), placed in three prior graded stakes, won for the 19th time in his 53rd start, and gave jockey William Humphrey his first career stakes victory. It was also a fitting tribute to late jockey Avery Whisman, who rode him to three victories in 2019-20 and was honored with a race named in his honor and coordinated national moment of silence earlier in the day.

Owner-trainer Norman ‘Lynn’ Cash presented Eastern Bay’s saddlecloth from the General George to the Whisman family, who tearfully joined the connections in the winner’s circle.

“It just seemed like this is the way the day should end. For Avery,” Cash said. “Eastern Bay has never been up like that before. He wasn’t that far off. Right then you knew he had to win, because he was only a length and a half off. Maybe he had a little help getting pushed down the lane by the powers that be. What a special day.”

Pirate Rick, one of three Cash horses in the race, broke running and went straight to the lead, as expected, under jockey Jose Gomez. A winner of four straight sprints before finishing fourth last out in the Jan. 28 Toboggan (G3) at Aqueduct, Pirate Rick went the first quarter-mile in 23.02 seconds under mile pressure from John the Bear, who came into the race off back-to-back victories at Laurel.

Eastern Bay raced in the clear in third outside of John the Bear before moving up to challenge Pirate Rick on the turn after a half in 45.43. Humphrey and Eastern Bay rolled past the leader approaching the lane and rolled past his stubborn foe in mid-stretch, having plenty left to hold off a late run from Yodel E.A. Who, who edged multiple stakes winner Beren by three-quarters of a length for second.

Eastern Bay
Eastern Bay won the Grade 3 General George. Photo by Allison Janezic.

“Pirate got an easy lead like we almost knew he would. I had questions about the distance [for him], but what a great duo these two are. You’ve got him on the pace and Eastern Bay coming around,” Cash said. “He’s such a strong horse, and he’s a 9-year-old. He’s an old guy.”

Factor It In, the 6-5 favorite off back-to-back sprint stakes wins at Laurel was a length back of Beren in fourth. Sir Alfred James, the last of the Cash trio, Pirate Rick, John the Bear and Momos completed the order of finish.

It was the eighth time since last April that Humphrey has gotten a leg up on Eastern Bay, five of those races resulting in wins. Second by a nose in the 2020 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) at Laurel, Eastern Bay was making his first start since being runner-up in both the Vosburgh (G2) and Bold Ruler (G3) last October at Aqueduct, when he was ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.

“He broke a lot sharper than I was expecting and he was traveling so comfortably, and I know he’s a strong stayer and when he gets his head in front,” Humphrey said. “He’s not going to let anyone pass him, so I was happy to kick on as we turned into the stretch and there was no looking back.

“To be honest with you I’m feeling very much purely for Avery. Obviously, this was his favorite horse and his most winning horse and I’m in exactly the same position,” he added. “He means the world to me and it’s like a dream come true and the stars all aligned.”