Trainer Bruce Levine has conditioned Roddy Valente’s homebred Bustin Stones through four victories — including three black type wins — and a successful comeback from surgery on both knees. But the 4-year-old son of City Zip will have to step it up a notch to remain undefeated when he tackles graded company for the first time in the Feb. 18 General George Handicap (gr. II) at Laurel Park.
Bustin Stones has done everything right from the start of his career, beginning last spring at Aqueduct when he broke his maiden by an impressive seven lengths in a March 24 six-furlong event. He next took the April 22 New York Stallion Times Square Stakes by 4 ¼-lengths, then won the May 9 Screenland Stakes at Belmont.
Sidelined because of knee surgery following that win, the colt came back Jan. 12 to win the six-furlong Promonroe Stakes at Aqueduct by 1 ½-lengths. Now Levine hopes to add a few graded wins to his resume.
“He’s done everything right so far, and he deserves a chance,” Levine said. “I couldn’t deny him the opportunity. The timing was right, and he’s wanted seven furlongs again. I think he’ll stretch fine and if we’re lucky we can win a few graded races with him, and he’ll make a nice little stallion somewhere.”
A definite pacesetter (all his wins came wire-to-wire), Bustin Stones may hook up on the front with the Richard Dutrow-trained Stormin Normandy, whose latest victory was a 1 ¼-length score in a 5 ½-furlong allowance at Aqueduct Jan. 12.
A Stormin Fever colt bred in New York by Fiddlers Green Stable, Stormin Normandy was a $375,000 Fasig-Tipton purchase from the Florida 2-year-olds in training sale in 2006. Owned by IEAH Stables, Andrew Cohen, and Pegasus Holding Group Stables, Bustin Stones won the Oct. 20 Hudson Handicap at Belmont in 2007 but was disqualified and placed second after drifting badly in the stretch under Rafael Bejarano. Prior to that effort, he earned a solid maiden win at seven furlongs and an allowance win at six furlongs – the former by 6 ¾-lengths, the latter by 9 ½-lengths – both at Belmont Park.
Carrying the high weight of 117 in the field is James Barry’s Divine Park, a Chester House colt bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm and Catesby Clay. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, the 4-year-old colt takes a drop in class after a ninth-place finish in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) over the Santa Anita Cushion Track Dec. 26. Beaten only five lengths, after breaking from the 14 hole and traveling five wide into the lane, Divine Park was previously unbeaten in three starts and owns a grade victory from the Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct last year. Should he return to his successful form, the colt also figures to be up close to the pace.
Other starters include the Todd Pletcher-trained Throng, winner of the Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel in his last start, Paumonok Handicap winner Lord Snowdon, Anthony Dutrow trainee Premium Wine (winner of an allowance in his last start), Marvel Wood, and Ryan’s For Real, third in the General George last year.
$300,000 General George Handicap (gr. II, race 8, approximate post 3:53 p.m. EST), seven furlongs for 3-year-olds and upward, dirt
PP, Horse, Age, Weight, Jockey
1. Lord Snowdon (KY), 5, 113, Jeremy Rose
2. Bustin Stones (NY), 4, 115, Ramon Dominguez
3. Premium Wine (NY), 4, 113, (No Rider)
4. Throng (KY), 5, 115, Edgar Prado
5. Ryan's for Real (FL), 5, 114, Jose Caraballo
6. Divine Park (KY), 4, 117, Alan Garcia
7. Marvel Wood (FL), 4, 109, (No Rider)
8. Stormin Normandy (NY), 4, 113, Cornelio Velasquez