Shown is the running of the General George Handicap Grade II… (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore…)
Watching Monday's General George Handicap from New York, trainer Rick Dutrow had one word to sum up the results: "Beautiful."
"I loved it," Dutrow said by cell phone after his two runners — favorite Yawanna Twist and fourth choice This Ones for Phil — came home first and second in the $200,000 Grade II race at Laurel Park. Toby's Corner, last year's pre-Kentucky Derby favorite, took third and Eighttofasttocatch was fourth.
Ridden by former Maryland-based jockey Mike Luzzi, Yawanna Twist, a 5-year-old bay who finished fourth in the 2010 Preakness Stakes, broke well and found his way into position behind This Ones for Phil, who sprinted to a clear, early lead.
Yawanna Twist covered the 7 furlongs in 1:22.38 to win by a half length and claim his first stakes victory. It was Dutrow'ssecond General George win, following Well Fancied in 2004.
"[This Ones for Phil's jockey Ramon Dominguez] usually knows where he's going, so I just fell in behind him and waited until it was time to go," Luzzi said. "That was coming around the turn to the front stretch. It was pretty simple, and it couldn't have gone more perfectly."
Yawanna Twist was racing for the first time sinceNew Year's Eve, while This Ones for Phil ran and won Friday at Aqueduct. Dutrow said he could foresee this result .
"I think we were depending on Yawanna to run a huge race because he's been able to come off the bench and do that," Dutrow said. "I was expecting him to do it. And Phil gives it everything he has every time out, but you never know when the last race was just three days ago and there's a little shipping in between.
"But I was hoping the horse would like to do it. And if he liked it, I thought he had a good chance to win. It was really fun to watch."
Toby's Corner's trainer Graham Motion was also watching from another state. The Maryland-based trainer was at Gulfstream Park in Florida, where his 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom won Saturday in his first race since leg surgery last June.
"I'm thrilled by what I saw," Motion said by phone after watching the General George. "I thought it was a great effort [by Toby's Corner], especially since it wasn't his best distance, it was his first race since [winning the Wood Memorial last April] and he was giving weight to everybody. The two horses that beat him were running their perfect distances, and yet Toby was still coming on at the end. I couldn't be happier."
Eighttofasttocatch trainer Tim Keefe was not nearly as happy after watching his 6-year-old Not For Love gelding struggle with circumstances mid-race.
"Today, my horse did his best, but he had a troubled trip," Keefe said. "Coming around the turn we ran into traffic. There was a hole, and then Toby's Corner closed the hole and there was a wall of horses."
Eighttofasttocatch was forced to alter his course, and by the time he found open space to run, the finish line was at hand.
Dominguez said his horse was not tired from Friday's race and credited Dutrow with an uncanny ability to run horses back on short rest. Luzzi echoed that sentiment.
"He is a real horse trainer — an old-timer kind of style," Luzzi said. "To be in his barn is unbelievable. He is such a good trainer. He knows all his horses, loves all his horses and he really likes this horse."