from Laurel Park track report
Last year, Badge of Silver was a highly regarded prospect on the road to the VISA Triple Crown. Unfortunately Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Silver Deputy
colt was injured and missed the marquee events on the racing calendar. On Friday, the 4-year old arrived at Laurel Park to headline Monday's $200,000 General George Handicap (gr. II).
Badge of Silver won the first three starts of his career, including a 10-length victory in last year's Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) for trainer Ronny Werner. But he flipped a palate during a fifth-place finish as the favorite in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and then fractured a cannon bone while preparing for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).
Starting for the first time in 10 months on Jan. 23, he made a triumphant return winning a six-furlong optional claiming race at Fair Grounds in a scintillating 1:08.88, improving his career record to four wins from five starts. On Monday he worked five furlongs in :59 3/5 seconds at his New Orleans base.
"He is just an impressive horse," said Werner. "Nothing he does really surprises me. He's got a world of talent and is just exciting to have. I think he'll do well and we'll do a lot of things this year. We just have to keep him sound and happy."
Regular rider Robby Albarado, fresh off accepting the George Woolf Award, will ride Werner's dark bay or brown ball of energy. The conditioner indicated the long term plan is the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Lone Star Park this October. Maryland Jockey Club oddsmaker Frank Carulli made the colt a strong 4-5 morning line choice.
"We were kind of thinking about the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II, Feb. 29), but with the time we had it would have been a pretty good jump between three-quarters and going a mile and an eighth," Werner said. "So we opted to go to the General George and kind of walk him up the ladder. We want to keep him sound this year and I think we are going to have some fun with him. We just need spread these races out and hope he keeps coming back."
Bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm, Trackside Farm, and Oratis Thoroughbreds, Badge of Silver is out of the Silver Hawk mare Silveroo. He was purchased by the Ramseys for $85,000 out of the 2001 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Eight horses will test Badge of Silver in the seven-furlong General George, including Peeping Tom (6-1), who won this race three years ago and was runner-up to My Cousin Matt a year ago. Since last year's race, the Patrick Reynolds trainee has competed in 10 graded races with five in-the-money finishes. The 7-year old's $1.3 million in earnings more than doubles any of the other horses in the field and he boasts five victories at the distance.
Locally-based Gators N Bears (6-1) has won four stakes since July, including the Hoover Stakes three weeks ago, and was third in the De Francis Dash (gr. I) in November. Owner/trainer Leo Nechamkin worked his charge over this surface on Sunday, breezing four furlongs in :49 under jockey Rick Wilson.
"We got what we were looking for and the horse is doing fine," said Nechamkin. "We took him out this morning and he is really on the muscle. Badge of Silver will go out to the front and if he does, hopefully we'll be one of the horses waiting for him to back up a little, if he actually does. There are a lot of closers in this race and that is my biggest concern."
Carulli has tabbed Well Fancied, who has won five New York-bred stakes races for trainer Richard Dutrow, as the second choice at 5-1. The 6-year old is three-for-five at the distance and will have the services of former Maryland riding star Edgar Prado.
Way to the Top (10-1) was fourth in the De Francis Dash and runner-up to Shake You Down in the grade III Gravesend in his final two efforts of 2003.
Out of Fashion and My Good Trick (12-1), will represent leading owner Michael Gill's powerful stable. The latter finished a half-length behind Gators N Bears in the Hoover.
Unforgettable Max (12-1) has faced Thunder Blitz, Evening Attire, During, Bowman's Band and Dynever in his last three starts.
Founding Chairman (20-1) ships in from Turfway Park and will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, the nation's leading rider. The 4-year old has never finished out of the money in eight career starts.General George Handicap (gr. II), Feb. 16, $200,000, Laurel Park, seven furlongs, 4-year-olds and up
PP, Horse, Jockey, Wgt., ML
1, Peeping Tom, Ariel Smith, 117, 6-1
2, Unforgettable Max, Ramon Dominguez, 112, 12-1
3, My Good Trick, Abel Castellano Jr., 113, 12-1 (entry)
4, Gators N Bears, Rick Wilson, 116, 6-1
5, Way to the Top, Mike Luzzi., 115, 10-1
6, Well Fancied, Edgar Prado, 115, 5-1
7, Out of Fashion, Jeremy Rose, 114, 12-1 (entry)
8, Badge of Silver, Robby Albarado, 117, 4-5
9, Founding Chairman, Rafael Bejarano, 112, 20-1