Saturday's Winter Sprintfest at Laurel Park features a pair of President's Day Weekend fixtures for the track among 6 stakes on a loaded card. The Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie for the fillies/mares and the Grade 3 General George for the colts/geldings have warmed up winter for decades in greater DC. The Fritchie looks like a strong spot for favorite Hello Beautiful to run her local record to 8-for-8 lifetime. The General George provides quite a few more options for the discerning horseplayer.
Grade 3 winners in the field include LAKI, MAJESTIC DUNHILL and SHARE THE RIDE. Meanwhile, FUNNY GUY is Grade 2-placed. Several listed stakes winners will be looking to make the grade. MAJESTIC DUNHILL has consistently kept the strongest competition since last summer, along with SHARE THE RIDE.
There's not as much front-end speed as you'd expect for a stakes sprint, but the 7-furlong distance can dissuade some of the fleet burners. ARTHUR'S HOPE might be best-equipped to make the front, and should have the likes of LAKI, LEBDA, SHARE THE RIDE and FORTUNATE FRIENDS in closest pursuit. This race can, and is projected to be, won near the front.
Aqueduct raiders are 2-for-20 in the General George over the past 8 editions, including 2015 winner Misconnect and last year's odds-on victor Firenze Fire. FUNNY GUY vans to Laurel from his New York base and will vie for favoritism. Trainer John Terranova shipped Killybegs Captain to Laurel to win the 2019 DeFrancis Dash, but there's no guarantee FUNNY GO will appreciate the barn's return trip. Since 2013, sire Big Brown is a modest 13% winners with Laurel runners (and 1-17 at 7 furlongs). His offspring are 0 for the last 23 since December 2018. While I respect FUNNY GUY, he's been favored in each of his last 5 starts and delivered just 1 victory in a photo at 4-5. I'll try to beat him.
The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th-place finishers from the Fire Plug Stakes at Laurel Jan. 16 all re-match, stretching out from 6 furlongs to 7. That race was won in last-to-first fashion by Wendell Fong, who will not return, but it does make you wonder if this quartet will be more susceptible over the additional ground. On the positive side, the last 4 General George winners all were adding distance off of 6-furlong sprints. And 8 straight winners of this race all came off of 4th-place or better finishes in their final prep: Good news for Fire Plug alumni SHARE THE RIDE, LEBDA and LAKI. Of those from the Fire Plug, LAKI interests me most as the beaten favorite. His price will rise, he'll be near what appears to be a soft-ish pace on Saturday and trainer Damon Dilodovico's runners hit a fantastic 30% over the last 3 years in 7-furlong sprints. LAKI was third in the 2019 General George, so he fits, and his rider Horacio Karamanos won this race in 2016. Add in a February 6 bullet workout and LAKI may be poised to deliver on his promise. He's been favored in 6 of his last 7 starts (only 1 win), but should be a more attractive price Saturday.
MAJESTIC DUNHILL closed 11 lengths to be runner-up in the 2019 General George under Feargal Lynch, and reunites with that pilot who recently returned from injury. Lynch had been out since last summer with neck and back fractures and just made his comeback last weekend. MAJESTIC DUNHILL is a past Laurel stakes winner who has some class edge off his recent races, albeit exits a pair of starts that were unraveled at the start. Trainer George Weaver has been on point with 4 Laurel wins from his last 9 starters, and brings this one north from Palm Beach Downs off a trio of January works. This quality colt was a past workmate with elite sprinter Vekoma.
TATTOOED cuts back in trip from the mile Jennings, where he pulled a 10-1 upset and got over the hump. He had won just 1 of his previous 17 starts, and notably TATTOOED is 0-5 in his career trying to win back-to-back.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: LAKI is 20-21 in the superfecta lifetime at Laurel.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: LEBDA does his best running at Laurel and his last race (at 11-1) was his best in some time, rounding back into form perhaps for leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $70 win LAKI; $15 exacta box LAKI and MAJESTIC DUNHILL ($30).