New York shipper True Quality underlined his quality by withstanding the challenge of odds-on favorite Fabulous Strike in the stretch run of the $150,000 General George Handicap (gr. II) Feb. 16 at Laurel. Under regular rider Carlos Lopez, the 4-year-old Elusive Quality colt prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths, winning the seven-furlong race in 1:22.31.
Front-running True Quality and Fabulous Strike were the only two in the field of six without a start over the oval but that hardly seemed to matter. The two stayed close together throughout the race, with Malibu Kid just off the pace.
Fabulous Strike figured to have it rougher than the others. He gave the winner 10 pounds and from 11 to 13 pounds to the others. Under 127 pounds, the son of Smart Strike finished two lengths in front of Malibu Kid.
The victory was the third in four starts for 4-year-old True Quality since John P. Campo Jr. took over the training last year. Owned by Ernie Paragallo’s Paraneck Stable, True Quality improved his overall record to five wins from 10 starts. He has earned $278,320.
Going into the race, True Quality had started just once at seven furlongs, finishing fourth in last year’s Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) in New York.
“I really didn’t know if he could go quite this far, but I figured if they let him go easy I would have a reasonably good chance of winning the race,” Lopez said. “When I called on him he took off and that was the end of it. He set easy fractions (:23.81. :47.21, and 1:10.52) and beat a good horse today. When we got clear at the eighth pole, I knew I had it. I wanted to save a little something for the stretch, and he gave me all he got.”
True Quality captured the Jan. 24 Paumonok Handicap at six furlongs in wire-to-wire fashion in his previous outing at Aqueduct.
“We hoped he could go the distance and he did,” Campo said. “That half (mile) in :47 and change…said it all. Fabulous Strike is a very good horse, but we also have a very good horse.”
Fabulous Strike would have been a millionaire with the first-place earnings of $90,000. Instead, the Tea Party Stable homebred for Walter Downey still needs about $31,000 to get there.
“No excuses with the weight or the trip,” said Edgar Prado, who rode Fabulous Strike for the first time because regular rider Ramon Dominguez is in Arkansas to ride Triple Crown contender Old Fashioned. “He just got outrun. We had a good trip. He was right there turning for home, with a perfect position to win. He just got outrun.”
The remaining order of finish was Eternal Star and the two closers, Broadway Producer and Lord Snowdon. The last-named missed winning last year’s running by a head.
True Quality, who was bred in Kentucky by Seasongs Farms and is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Louve Mysterieuse, paid 9.80, $4.00, and $2.80. Fabulous Strike returned $2.40 and $2.20, and Malibu Kid paid $4.00.