Commanders in Chief ready for Monday at Laurel

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It’s snowing. It’s not supposed to amount to much, but it’s snowing. It’s also cold and getting colder. In response, Laurel Park canceled Sunday’s racing – the bridge between stakes-laden Saturday and Monday cards.

The move should help make Monday’s President’s Day lineup happen, despite a low near zero (0!) Sunday night. Post time for the first of 10 races is 12:30 p.m. The seventh, the $100,000 Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies, kicks off three consecutive stakes at 3:27. The $250,000 General George headlines the day as the ninth, with 12 horses entered. In between, 3-year-old colts go in the $100,000 Miracle Wood.

Like Saturday’s featured Barbara Fritchie, the General George drew a competitive group with gaudy credentials.

“It came up sparkling even though we didn’t get Salutos Amigos,” said stakes coordinator Coley Blind, mentioning the multiple graded stakes-winner from New York. “But I’m happy with the field.”

Blind will have to be happy with Big Business, an understudy of sorts to Salutos Amigos for trainer David Jacobson. Gary Barber’s 7-year-old New York-bred owns 11 lifetime wins and a second in Grade 1 company last year. The 7-furlong Grade 2 also lured millionaire Bourbon Courage, who ships in from Florida (brr) for Kellyn Gorder. The 6-year-old makes his 2015 debut off three quality efforts to close 2014.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas brings Zee Bros back to Laurel, site of the horse’s win in the De Francis Dash in October. The 5-year-old was third in his 2015 debut at Oaklawn Park last month. New York, Florida, Arkansas, the next shipper on the list hails from California as Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer added Outside Nashville to the pallet from the West Coast. The Broken Vow gelding rides a two-race winning streak on the synthetic track at Golden Gate Fields.

Regional locals Souper Knight, Javerre, Perilous Indian, Cutty Shark, Smash And Grab and Praetereo are also in the race along with New York-based Misconnect and West Hills Giant.

Mike Trombetta trains 15-1 shot Souper Knight, 8-for-8 in the top three at Laurel, and hopes for the best against the out-of-towners.

“Some years, (the General George) is loaded and we kind of expected it to be a decent race this time,” he said. “For $250,000, at 7 furlongs, people will run. It seems like when tracks lump these races together, any time of the year, good horses show up. Trainers will look at it and say, ‘You know what, I’ll take them all.’ “

Trombetta hopes for a bit of a home-track advantage, and maybe some help from the extreme weather.

“If they’ve trained over the track or run over the track I think it helps,” he said. “Someobdy from out of town, even if they’ve been running against superior company they’ve still got to get over this track. Horses don’t usually mind going into the cold from warm weather, but this is different. We’ll see.”

Three-year-olds try mile

When Golden Years scratched from the Frank Whiteley Stakes late last month, you could almost hear state racing fans say “uh oh.” There’s always hope that a 3-year-old will emerge from the state and tackle bigger prizes on the Triple Crown trail.

Golden Years, off three wins in four starts as a 2-year-old, might be that horse, especially now that he’s back among the entries in Monday’s Miracle Wood Stakes. The 1-mile test is the next stage for local 3-year-olds and offers a logical step for Golden Years, who won twice at 6 furlongs and once at 7 last year.

Trainer Rodney Jenkins said bypassing the Whiteley was by design, sort of.

“I scratched, he was fine,” Jenkins said. “The track had been bad, he hadn’t been on it in four or five days and hadn’t worked in 12 days. There was nothing wrong, I just didn’t think running was the right thing to do for him.”

Majestic Affair won the Whiteley in a laugher and Golden Years gets back to work Monday as the 2-1 second choice against seven others in the Miracle Wood. Victor Carrasco takes the return assignment.

Owned by Ellen Charles’ Hillwood Stable, Golden Years is Mid-Atlantic to the maximum as a West Virginia-bred son of Maryland sire Not For Love and a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling-sale graduate. The bay colt is also pretty talented with a debut win last September and scores in the Maryland Million Nursery and Marylander stakes.

Jenkins thinks his horse will handle the mile (one turn at Laurel).

“He’s got a high cruising speed, hopefully he can carry it a mile,” said the trainer. “I would have loved to have gotten that seven-eighths into him that last time, but he should be able to handle it. I see no difference in the horse from last year. He was pretty grown up as a baby. He acts the same, he trains the same, he’s pretty easy. He got a nice break, which was probably what he needed – just to freshen him up a little bit.”

Nasa is favored in the Miracle Wood, off two wins as a 2-year-old and a second in Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Jerome in January. The Pennsylvania-bred carries familiar connections as a son of Smarty Jones racing for breeder Pat Chapman’s Someday Farm and trainer John Servis. Kendrick Carmouche rides the 9-5 choice.

Fillies get stakes card started

Three-year-old fillies – nine of them – square off in the Wide Country to start the stakes triple at Laurel. Lake Sebago is favored at 6-5 off three wins and three seconds in six starts for Tim O’Donohue Racing Stable and trainer Jerry Robb. Most recently, the daughter of Munnings was second in the Marshua Stakes after back-to-back stakes scores.

No horse in the race can match the recent form of 12-1 shot Spotted Heart. Copper Penny Stable’s filly rides a three-race winning streak – rising from November maiden win to December restricted stakes score and Feb. 1 optional-claiming triumph for trainer Mark Shuman. The daughter of Lion Hearted, bred in Maryland by Cynthia and Charles McGinnes, has been training on the all-weather track at Fair Hill.

Maryland Million winner My Magician finished a head behind Spotted Heart last time and is also 15-1. New York shipper Diannestillworks finished third in Aqueduct’s Busanda last out.