'Monster' dwarfs General George field Favorite wins 4th race in row by 3 1/2 lengths

February 20, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

An unfortunate pre-race incident reduced the field to seven betting interests, then favored Meadow Monster reduced the rest to also-rans.

The stronger half of New Farm's 2-to-5 entry put away Splendid Sprinter in the final furlong and notched a 3 1/2 -length victory in yesterday's Grade II $200,000 General George Handicap at Laurel Park.

It was an impressive fourth straight victory by Meadow Monster, who has recovered from some physical problems to become one of the top sprinters in the United States.

He may be headed for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, according to Ben Perkins Jr., speaking for his father, officially Meadow Monster's trainer.

"It's a long way off, but that is a legitimate possibility," Perkins said of the Breeders' Cup. "The De Francis Dash could be, too."

Two entries, Finder's Fortune from California and Sea Emperor from Florida, were late scratches when Sea Emperor spooked after

hearing a door slam.

The horse escaped his groom, and Finder's Fortune, who was nearby, also became scared and got loose from his handler. The stewards reported they collided after hearing the noise.

Lenny Hale, Maryland Jockey Club vice president of racing, said he "personally rode my horse over the path that they would walk from their barn to the race track. It was totally clear, without ice, and safe.

"These are very fractious animals in general. One never knowexactly what might frighten them. And while this sort of thing happens every day, it's truly unfortunate that it happened today after they traveled this far for a big race."

Sea Emperor, second to Meadow Monster in the OlympiHandicap last time out, suffered scrapes and bruises on his shoulder and leg, and Finder's Fortune had an injury to his hock.

Each figured to draw support from the bettors before being hurt.

Splendid Sprinter took the lead from Yappy after a half-mile and was in good position with three furlongs to race.

But Rick Wilson guided Meadow Monster through some traffic, got clear and took over as the field turned into the stretch. They hooked up briefly before Meadow

Monster pulled away to easily capture the $120,000 winner's share.

"He wasn't getting hold of the track early. He was digging and not going anywhere," said Wilson, a former Maryland regular and Perkins' stable rider. "I just let him settle in. After that, it was just a matter of when to move.

"He's really gotten good since he's been in Florida. He's turned out to be the horse we thought he would be."

Wilson said Meadow Monster didn't run as well last year because of "quarter cracks. He had bad feet and he was crabby and sour. He was pinning back his ears just galloping."

Cat Be Nimble ran a game third, and Mary's Buckaroo, the top local hope, closed well for fourth but never threatened for the lead.

The elder Perkins was considering running Meadow Monster at Gulfstream in a $50,000 race but decided to come north for four times the reward.

He will return to Florida to compete in a race on Florida Derby day, then is scheduled for the Commonwealth at Keeneland.

"The last 50 yards he looked like he wanted to go some more. He is just so good right now," said Ben Perkins Jr. "My dad told me to make that girth real tight because he's 'real fast.' "

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