General George S. (G3) — Race 8 (3:53 p.m. ET)
Postponed one week due to the severe weather enveloping much of the nation, Laurel’s Winter Sprintfest on Saturday includes two of the four graded stakes on the U.S. calendar this weekend.
The $250,000 General George S. (G3), for older horses over seven furlongs, appears a good bounce-back opportunity for Share the Ride, who was seemingly compromised by a slow pace in last month’s Toboggan (G3) at Aqueduct. The six-year-old veteran wound up third as the favorite, more than three lengths behind the winning American Power.
Share the Ride had finished first or second in five of his previous six starts, with a victory in the Fall Highweight H. (G3) and photo-finish misses in the Bold Ruler H. (G3) and Fire Plug S. among the highlights.
Majestic Dunhill, who edged Share the Ride by a head in the Oct. 31 Bold Ruler, fared poorly in both the Fall Highweight and the Mr. Prospector (G3) at Gulfstream in two subsequent outings. But trainer George Weaver feels the veteran gelding had excuses in both.
“The horse didn’t break running (at Aqueduct); he kind of got in a tangle and even after that didn’t do much running,” Weaver said. “I brought him down (to Florida) 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 Is dotted and our Ts crossed and we’re ready to roll.”
Most of the other leading contenders in the General George will break from the three inside posts. The New York-bred Funny Guy has held his own against open company in the past year earning minor checks in the Forego (G1) and Vosburgh (G2), while Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) victor Laki looks to bounce back from recent unplaced finishes on the local circuit. The four-year-old Lebda is one of the youngest in the field and owns a solid 6-3-0-2 mark over the track.
Barbara Fritchie S. (G3) — Race 7 (3:23 p.m. ET)
The $250,000 Barbara Fritchie S. (G3), for fillies and mares at seven furlongs, pits the speedy duo of Hello Beautiful and Dontletsweetfoolya against Sharp Starr, who hopes to pick up the pieces from a potential duel.
Hello Beautiful is the current queen of Laurel. Undefeated in seven starts over the track, she’s riding a three-race win streak that includes the Maryland Million Distaff, Safely Kept S., and What a Summer S. Dontletsweetfoolya is 4-for-7 over the track, and her current five-race win streak includes victories in the Primonetta S. and Willa On the Move S. late last year.
A stalk-and-pounce type that can threaten the top pair on recent form is Sharp Starr, although the edition of the Go for Wand H. (G3) she won in early December was historically soft and was beaten in a New York-bred stakes at odds of 2-5 next out.