Fritchie, Gen­eral Ge­orge top fes­ti­val

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - Front Page - By Jim Dun­leavy

The Lau­rel Park Win­ter Fes­ti­val has been con­sol­i­dated from two days to one this year and will be held Satur­day. The six stakes have tra­di­tion­ally been split be­tween the Satur­day and Mon­day of Pres­i­dents Day week­end.

The card will be an­chored by the Grade 2 Bar­bara Fritchie and the Grade 3 Gen­eral Ge­orge. The fes­ti­val also in­cludes four $75,000 stakes, two for 3-yearolds and two for older run­ners.

In the past two years, the Win­ter Fes­ti­val has lived up to its name and been held in frigid, test­ing con­di­tions. As of Mon­day, it looked like Lau­rel might catch a break, with the fore­cast call­ing for a sunny day with a high of 60 de­grees.

The Satur­day card will be streamed on DRF.com.

The $300,000 Fritchie, a seven-fur­long race for fil­lies and mares, had five def­i­nite starters as of Mon­day, with other in­ter­ested par­ties con­sid­er­ing their op­tions.

High Ridge Road, trained by Linda Rice, and By the Moon, who races for Michelle Nevin, are both point­ing to the race. High Ridge Road de­feated By the Moon by a half-length Dec. 31 in the one-mile Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes at Lau­rel.

Trainer Kiaran McLaugh­lin swept the Fritchie ex­acta last year with Dancing House and Clothes Fall Off. He is ex­pected to run two horses again this year, with Clothes Fall Off prob­a­ble and Takrees and In­dul­gent pos­si­ble.

Clothes Fall Off weak­ened to fin­ish fifth in the In­ter­bor­ough Stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 22 while mak­ing her first start in nine months. Takrees closed from the clouds to win the In­ter­bor­ough by a neck. In­dul­gent, a half-sis­ter to Frosted, has won three straight races.

Trainer Clau­dio Gon­za­lez, who leads the win­ter-meet trainer stand­ings at Lau­rel, has been point­ing Sweet On Smokey to the Fritchie since she won the What a Sum­mer Stakes on Jan. 14.

The $250,000 Gen­eral Ge­orge, a seven-fur­long race for 4-yearolds and up, looks to have a solid fa­vorite in Stall­walkin’ Dude, who has been in sharp form since last sum­mer for trainer David Ja­cob­son.

A win­ner of 17 of 49 starts, the 7-year-old Stall­walkin’ Dude won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler at Bel­mont Park in Oc­to­ber and has since won the Gravesend at Aqueduct and been beaten a neck in both the To­bog­gan and Fall High­weight there.

Other Gen­eral Ge­orge prob­a­bles in­clude Heaven’s Run­way, who in his last two starts has won the Fall High­weight and the Dave’s Friend at Lau­rel; Im­pe­rial Hint, win­ner of the Fire Plug on Jan. 14; and Classy Class, Grasshop­pin, and Never Gone South.

Page McKen­ney be­tween races

Trainer Mary Ep­pler said Sun­day she in­tends to crossen­ter Page McKen­ney in the Gen­eral Ge­orge and the John B. Camp­bell, a 1 1/8-mile race at Lau­rel on Satur­day.

“I haven’t de­cided where he is go­ing to run,” Ep­pler said. “I want to take a look at both races be­fore I de­cide.”

Ep­pler used the same strat­egy last year and opted for the Gen­eral Ge­orge, which Page McKen­ney won by a head over Ma­jes­tic Af­fair. The sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent this year, how­ever, as Page McKen­ney had a string of races un­der his belt at this point in 2016 but just re­cently won his come­back race fol­low­ing a ninemonth in­jury-re­lated lay­off.

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