Hillwood Stable’s nine-time stakes winner Cordmaker, arguably in the best form of his life, will put a three-race win streak on the line in search of an elusive graded-stakes victory in the $250,000 General George (G3) Saturday, Feb. 19 at Laurel Park in Maryland.
The 46th running of the General George for 4-year-olds and up and the 70th edition of the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older, both sprinting seven furlongs, highlighting a 10-race program featuring six stakes worth $900,000 in purses .
Sophomores will be in the spotlight in the $100,000 Miracle Wood going one mile and $100,000 Wide Country for fillies at seven furlongs, while older horses will contest the $100,000 Nellie Morse for females and $100,000 John B. Campbell, each at about 1 1/16 miles .
First race post time is 12:25 pm The General George is carded as Race 9 (4:27 pm)
Trainer Rodney Jenkins and Hillwood’s Ellen Charles debated whether to run Cordmaker around two turns in the Campbell before settling on the General George, a race they won together with Bandbox in 2014. The 7-year-old son of two-time Horse of the Year and 2014 Hall of Famer Curlin has run at a mile or longer 15 consecutive races.
“If you get a good speed horse that doesn’t come back, then we might be in trouble. If you’ve got a speed horse in there that you can run down, that’s different,” Jenkins said. “He ran well last time. We just kind of follow him. He lets us know when he’s ready, that’s what it amounts to.”
Cordmaker owns two wins and a second in eight career tries at seven furlongs, a distance he last tried Aug. 20, 2020, when he finished fifth. Those races came in the midst of an uncharacteristic 10-race losing streak that ended in the Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial last March.
Since then, Cordmaker has won four of seven starts including the Victory Gallop last summer at Colonial Downs and the Richard Small and Robert Manfuso by open lengths at Laurel to end 2021 and clinch the long dirt male title and the overall championship in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series.
Cordmaker held on to edge Hanalei’s Houdini by a neck in the one-mile Jennings for Maryland-bred/sired horses Jan. 29 at Laurel to kick off his 2022 campaign and stretch the win streak to the longest of his career. Overall, he has 13 wins, 10 at Laurel, and $839,640 in purse earnings from 35 starts.
“We’ve never had an all-around horse like him, no. He kind of does what we ask him to do and we kind of do what he asks us to do,” Jenkins said. “The first race he ran when he turned 4, I saw it then. He really put out and you could see he could run. Other times, he’d run in spots but now he runs like you want him to.
“I think he’s more of a racehorse now than he’s ever been,” he added. “He used to do things when he felt like it. Now, you can put him in a race, train him for the race and it all comes out pretty good.”
Jenkins said there were few parallels between Cordmaker and Bandbox, a five-time winner from 15 starts that won stakes in New York, West Virginia and Maryland including the Private Terms as a 3-year-old in 2011. His General George was the second and most recent graded triumph for the 77-year-old Jenkins, a member of the Washington International Show Jumping Hall of Fame.
“It was very, very nice to win that race. We all had a good night that night,” Jenkins said. “This horse is probably more consistent than Bandy was but they both give you what they got and that’s what I like about both of them.”
In previous graded-stakes attempts, Cordmaker ran third in the historic Pimlico Special (G3) in 2019 and 2020 and fourth in 2021, fifth in the 2019 Suburban (G2) and eighth in the 2019 General George.
“It would be great for him [to win a graded-stake]he added. “He’s not a stud colt, so it’s not going to help his breeding, but it would be very nice for him. He deserves it.”
Victor Carrasco, aboard for 24 of Cordmaker’s starts including each of the last 10, gets the return call from Post 2 in a field of seven.
Cordmaker will see some familiar faces in fellow Laurel-based stakes winners Air Token, Threes Over Deuces and Shackqueenking. Air Token, owned and trained by Jose Corrales, won the 2021 Maryland Million Sprint and exits a five-length optional claiming allowance triumph going six furlongs Jan. 21 at Laurel.
“He came out of it good,” Corrales said. “He’s training well. He ran a very decent race I thought last time and I think he deserves a chance to go in this race.”
The 5-year-old Air Token followed his Maryland Million score running third by a neck in the seven-furlong Howard and Sondra Bender and fourth, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Threes Over Deuces, in the Dec. 26 Dave’s Friend – like the Maryland Million Sprint – contested at six furlongs.
“If he runs his race, he’ll be tough,” Corrales said. “When you go in these types of races, you’re always going to have competition and they all want the same thing. As long as he runs his race and everything goes his way, he can get there … and if you can win it’s a plus.”
Regular rider JD Acosta gets the assignment from Post 7.
Threes Over Deuces and Shackqueenking are both owned by Pocket 3’s Racing. The 7-year-old Threes Over Deuces is a multiple stakes winner that has excelled at Laurel, finishing third or better in 19 of 25 tries, most recently running fourth to Grade 3 winner Wonderwherecraigis in the Fire Plug. Shackqueenking, 4, was third in that race, a neck ahead of his stablemate. He won the 1 1/16-mile Howard County as a 2-year-old in 2020.
Xavier Perez is named aboard Threes Over Deuces from Post 5, while Jamie Rodriguez will be on Shackqueenking from Post 3.
Shipping in from the Midwest to make his 4-year-old debut is Willow’s Green Stables’ Timeless Bounty. A 59-1 upset winner of the $250,000 Steel Valley Sprint last November at Mahoning Valley, Timeless Bounty hasn’t raced since fifth in the seven-furlong Malibu (G1) finishing Dec. 26 at Santa Anita.
“He’s doing well. We gave him a little break. That was a tough, tough race,” trainer David Wilson Jr. said. “We would have been a lot better off if our rider could have made it out there. He’s kind of one of those horses where you have to get him to the outside and swing him out. He’s like a pet, but when it comes to riding him he’s a little different.”
Timeless Bounty was saddled by trainer Bob Hess Jr. for the Malibu, but gave Wilson the biggest win of his career in the Steel Valley Sprint just two starts after claiming him for $15,000.
“After he ran [in the Malibu] he had that long trip home and that kind of knocked him out for a week or so and we didn’t really do much with him. I got him [to Laurel] four or five days ago and galloped and worked him over the track,” Wilson said.
“This track is a little deep and that’s actually one of the reasons why we came here, because it’s pretty much just like Mahoning. Even Bob Hess told me when we were out there that this would be a great race for this horse,” he added. “He kind of recommended this race for us and we’ve kind of had it on the calendar since he ran out there. We haven’t’ even really thought of any other race.”
Malcolm Franklin, up in the Steel Valley, makes the trip in to ride from Post 6 at topweight of 124 pounds.
Completing the field are Built Wright Stables’ Sir Alfred James, winner of the Holiday Cheer in the Oaklawn mud Dec. 18 that ran last of nine in the 6 ½-furlong Forego Feb. 12 on all-weather surface at Turfway Park; and Trin-Brook Stables, Inc.’s War Tocsin, off the board in the 2021 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) and Maryland Sprint (G3) in two previous trips to Laurel.