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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

'Quality' goes distance' 4-year-old colt leads wire-to-wire to beat favorite Fabulous Strike

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By Bill Ordine

The General George Handicap at Laurel Park is supposed to be a seven-furlong sprint. True Quality, a 4-year-old colt who runs mostly in New York, turned it into a waltz early on yesterday and wound up going wire-to-wire to win the $150,000 Grade II stakes race.

True Quality's jockey, C.C. Lopez, had plenty of horse left when the pre-race favorite, Fabulous Strike, ridden by Edgar Prado, made his move at the turn. True Quality, who had not raced seven furlongs, kicked into another gear in the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths.

"When I was able to set the relatively easy fractions that I needed to make sure that I could get the distance ... it makes all the difference in the world," Lopez said. "And when Edgar asked his horse, I took my time and I asked my horse, and we ran there together and I bested him. I beat a good horse today."

True Quality went to the front of the six-horse field and immediately had Fabulous Strike, who left the gate at even money, on his outside shoulder. But the speed duel that was expected never materialized. The winning time was 1minute, 22.31 seconds.

Fabulous Strike, who has 12 wins in 20 career starts, is normally ridden by Ramon Dominguez. But Dominguez was riding Triple Crown candidate Old Fashioned in Arkansas. So Prado had yesterday's ride.

"No excuses with the weight or the trip," Prado said. "He just got outrun."

True Quality paid $9.80, $4 and $2.80. Following second-place Fabulous Strike across the finish line was Maryland-bred Malibu Kid. Another locally trained horse, Eternal Star, was fourth.

Malibu Kid tried to press on the inside early but could not keep up when True Quality, fresh from his relatively easy ride, turned for home.

"I thought Edgar would have pushed the winner a little more," Malibu Kid's jockey, Travis Dunkelberger, said. "Our plan was [to] sit off the lead and make a run at the leaders. We took him off his game, but he dug in there."

In December at Aqueduct, Fabulous Strike and True Quality also finished 1-2, but with Fabulous Strike the winner. True Quality's trainer, John CampoJr., said the slower pace made the difference.

"When I saw 47 [seconds] and change [after a half-mile], I felt really good," Campo said.

And it was Lopez's strategy to put True Quality out front from the start. "I told [Lopez] in the paddock, if somebody else wants to go, you can sit off him," Campo said. "His exact words were, 'I'm putting him in the lead, boss.'"

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