Favorites were beaten in the undercard stakes during Saturday’s Winter Carnival at Laurel, but even that trend couldn’t lay a glove on the 1-2 Firenze Fire’s superiority in $250,000 General George (G3).
Flashing speed in the opening strides, the Mr. Amore Stables homebred was content to let Honor the Fleet and Factor it In sneak through on his inside to duke it out. That was a tactical deferral on the part of Irad Ortiz Jr., who held onto him until a more opportune time.
Firenze Fire was still on the bridle as he cruised to the fore turning for home. The Jason Servis charge stamped his authority and drew away by four lengths, finishing 7 furlongs in 1:22.38. The 21-1 Threes Over Deuces edged Still Having Fun for runner-up honors.
With this ninth career stakes victory to his credit, Firenze Fire has bankrolled $1,841,750 from a 24-10-3-2 record. His marquee scores include the 2017 Champagne (G1) and Sanford (G3) as well as the 2018 Dwyer (G3) and Gallant Bob (G3). A nose away in last season’s Vosburgh (G1) and also runner-up in the A.G. Vanderbilt (G1), the son of Poseidon’s Warrior hasn’t lost since his fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Firenze Fire will bring a three-race streak, comprising the Nov. 27 Fabulous Strike and Dec. 22 Gravesend, back to Aqueduct for the April 4 Carter H. (G1).
Ortiz had a much more eventful passage aboard 3-5 favorite Dreams Untold in the $100,000 Miracle Wood. The promising 3-year-old acted up prior to loading, and stumbled so badly at the start that he appeared to lose all chance. Somehow Dreams Untold commenced a rally of such duration that he not only rejoined the field, but passed almost all his rivals through the first 6 furlongs.
Only pacesetting Lebda, the 7-2 second choice, was left to catch under Alex Cintron. Dreams Untold then finally felt the effects of his monumental efforts and tired to fifth. Nevertheless, the son of Smarty Jones – from his same Someday Stable connections and trainer John Servis – will go down in many notebooks as a Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful to follow.
Meanwhile, Euro Stables’ Lebda lasted by three-quarters of a length from Mine Not Mine. The Claudio Gonzalez pupil negotiated the mile in 1:38.38 to earn his first stakes victory. Third in last year’s Iroquois (G3) and the Dec. 28 Heft last time out, the Raison d’Etat colt sports a mark of 7-3-1-2, $154,525.
Last year’s champion Maryland-bred 3-year-old and Miracle Wood star, Alwaysmining, was all heart in outdueling 6-5 favorite Monongahela in the $99,000 John B. Campbell. The 2-1 third choice dictated the fractions while pressed by Monongahela, who put his head in front for Ortiz in midstretch. But Alwaysmining fought back and regained a neck advantage. Under Julian Pimentel, the Kelly Rubley trainee completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.46.
Alwaysmining’s scorecard now stands at 19-9-1-2, $536,442. The Runnymoore Racing colorbearer racked up a six-race winning streak last season, five of them stakes, capped by the Federico Tesio that netted him a Preakness (G1) berth. Alwaysmining has taken time to regain his form after an 11th in the Middle Jewel, but he might be beginning another skein. The Stay Thirsty gelding was following up on a score in the Jan. 18 Jennings.
A bump at the start might have gotten 4-5 favorite Saguaro Row out of sync in the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie (G3), where she became rank between foes, eased back to settle, and wound up last of six.
Instead it was Hillwood Stable and Richard Golden’s homebred Majestic Reason, Maryland’s reigning champion older mare, who hit top gear late as the 10-1 longest shot on the board. Trained by Graham Motion and ridden by Trevor McCarthy, the Majestic Warrior mare worked out a stalking trip behind a contested pace. Victim of Love won the pace battle but lost the war as Majestic Reason surged 2 1/4 lengths clear.
By negotiating 7 furlongs in 1:23.35, Majestic Reason scored her first graded laurel. Her resume of 13-6-4-2, $462,998, reflects two prior Laurel stakes wins, most recently the Dec. 28 Willa on the Move. Her quartet of stakes placings includes a third in the 2019 Gallant Bloom H. (G2).
The 4-5 favorite in the $100,000 Wide Country, Bella Aurora, likewise didn’t factor in fifth behind the 8-1 surprise package Naughty Thoughts. Taking command early for Jevian Toledo, the Jonathan Maldonado sophomore widened her margin to 4 3/4 lengths and clocked 7 furlongs in 1:24.01.
Rafael Lopez’s Naughty Thoughts, a Maryland-bred by The Factor, has now earned $189,397 from her 15-4-5-4 line. Since being claimed by her current connections for $25,000 out of a Nov. 3 win, she’s placed third in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship and the Dec. 28 Gin Talking.