There are a few good stakes around the country Monday as we celebrate Presidents’ Day. However, the best one is the 39th renewal of the 7 furlong, $250k General George Handicap at Laurel Park. It is one of the busiest days of the Laurel meet along with the De Francis Memorial Dash in the fall. The race has a good mix of local veterans and invaders shipping from New York, Pennsylvania and California.
Let’s start handicapping with last year’s De Francis Dash winner, #5 ZEE BROS (7/2). While I like him as a racehorse, I do not think this middle distance of seven furlongs suits him best. You can argue the last race was a designed prep, cutting back to this distance but at a short price, I’ll let him beat me.
#1 BOURBON COURAGE (5/2) is the likely favorite and is very similar to ZEE BROS. He is an honest horse, but does not win an awful lot, just once in the last two years (13 Starts). You can argue that he has faced the toughest company but I’m not sure seven furlongs is his best game. I will however, play him underneath in my exotics as he has too much back class.
My top picks in this race are #2 MISCONNECT (10-1), #6 BIG BUSINESS (6-1), and #8 CUTTY SHARK (12-1).
On paper, it looks like #4 SMASH AND GRAB (8-1) is going to go early. MISCONNECT has speed to put himself in the game and does not need the lead to win. He should sit a nice spot close up and is a monster at this specialty distance (two wins and a place in three races). BIG BUSINESS is my top pick in this race. Other than the Cigar Mile, he is right there in every race against very good company while being stuck out wide every time. Finally, locally based trainer Donald Barr sends out CUTTY SHARK whose versatile running style is intriguing at a price. He loves the Laurel surface and is proven at this distance going around one and two turns. Looking at his races, he is always driving late and determined to give it all. Donald Barr is a trainer I really respect and think is vastly underrated. His horses are also running really well so far this year (winning at 29%).
Exacta Box: 2,6,8