Speedy Don Six, a 5-year-old that trainer Scott Lake feels is good enough to win the 2005 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), takes an important step in Monday's $200,000 General George Handicap (gr. II) at seven furlongs at Laurel Park.
Don Six ended 2004 with a front running win in the Gravesend Handicap (gr. III) and kicked off this year by leading every step of the way in the Paumonok Handicap, both at six furlongs on Aqueduct's inner track. In fact, his last five wins, all at three-quarters of a mile, have come in gate-to-wire fashion.
The son of Wild Escapade has just one win at seven furlongs, but has been in the money five times in six starts at the distance.
"He came out of the New York race tremendous, and that might be an understatement," said Lake, the leading conditioner at the Laurel Park-Pimlico winter meet who is two-for-two with Don Six. "His ears were up during the race and he was waiting on horses. As for getting the seven furlongs, he's won at that distance and he's won at a mile and a sixteenth. Of course it wasn't against horses of this caliber, but he's a different horse now, too."
Lake plans on working his charge a quarter mile down the lane on Saturday morning at Philadelphia Park and will ship him to Laurel on Monday. Mike Luzzi, who was aboard Don Six in the Gravesend in December, has the assignment.
Saratoga County (3-1) could benefit from a pace duel. The 4-year-old son of Valid Expectations
arrives from Florida with back-to-back wins, including a victory in the Mr. Prospector Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream in early January. In that race Saratoga Country rallied from 10th to win under Javier Castellano, who retains the mount for trainer George Weaver.
Gators N Bears (4-1), a local favorite owned and trained by Leo Nechamkin, is another stalker. He's finished in the money in 22 of his 26 starts, including a third place finish in last year's General George. He chased Don Six in his last two outings, the Gravesend, where he was fourth, and as the runner-up in the Paumonok.
Ramon Dominguez will be aboard the son of Stormy Atlantic
for the first time. Maryland's top rider worked Gators N Bears on Sunday morning when the 5-year old was clocked at 46 3/5 for a half-mile, the best of 16 posted at the distance.
"He was very impressive last weekend," Dominguez said. "Not only did he go fast but he did it very much within himself. Don Six is a fast horse and if someone goes with him I wouldn't mind sitting right behind them."$2000,000 General George Handicap (gr. II), 3 & up, 7 furlongs
PP. HORSE, ML, JOCKEY
1. Taste Of Paradise, 8-1, Jose Valdivia Jr.
2. Gators N Bears, 4-1, Ramon Dominguez
3. New York Hero, 20-1, TBA
4. Saratoga County, 3-1, Javier Castellano
5. Unforgettable Max, 8-1, Harry Vega
6. Don Six, 9-5, Mike Luzzi
7. Bocca Al Lupo, 20-1, Maro Pino,
8. Houston's Prayer, 12-1, Timothy Thornton
9. Private Horde, 12-1, Rodney Prescott