Two horses lodged strong rallies in the stretch of the $53,325 Hoover Stakes yesterday at Laurel Race Course, but it was Smart Alec and jockey Mario Pino who prevailed at the wire.
The 6-year-old horse made his customary late bid on the inside and beat Military Look, whose wide rally on the outside under Rick Wilson fell a head short.
Who Wouldn't held the lead until deep stretch and finished third, a length ahead of favored He Is Risen. The latter ran three horses wide most of the way and hung at the end.
Less than five lengths separated the entire five-horse field at the finish of the six-furlong sprint that served as a preview for the $200,000 General George Stakes on Feb. 21.
All five horses are expected to run back in the race, including last-place finisher Flaming Emperor. His trainer, Ken Cox, said his horse hadn't run in two months, had missed training because of weather conditions and would now be fitter for the richer General George.
Dick Delp, trainer of Smart Alec, said his horse missed 12 days of training and a couple of important workouts, but won anyway. "Maybe it's better this way," Delp said. "Sometimes horses are overtrained."
Smart Alec and the rest of the Hoover starters can expect to meet such other local horses as Majesty's Turn, Secret Odds and Pomeroon in the General George.
Majesty's Turn won the race last year. Secret Odds, stabled at Laurel, recently won the Paumonok Handicap and finished third last weekend in the Sporting Plate Stakes at Aqueduct. Pomeroon, a Canadian invader, won a $25,000 allowance race earlier on yesterday's card. They are among 33 General George nominees, including Birdonthewire, runner-up to 1993 Eclipse Award sprint winner, Cardmania.
Cardmania was not nominated to the General George because his California trainer, Derek Meredith, wants to stretch him out to 1 1/8 miles.
New national wager
Member tracks of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations voted last week at the TRA convention in New Orleans to institute a new national wager this spring.
"It will be a National Pick-7," said Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis, who serves on the TRA executive committee. "Every Saturday, seven different races from tracks around the country will be featured. It's a 50-cent wager so it will be affordable to everyone. For $2, you can get four plays."
The payoff format includes three components: a win pool paid to ticket holders that pick all 7 winners; a consolation payoff for less than 7 winners; and a Jackpot, which will be paid if there is one winning ticket.
Delp said that Smart'n Noble, recently named Maryland-bred 2-year-old filly champion of 1993, has had knee surgery and won't return to the races until next summer. . . . Bounding Daisy, who had not run since finishing third last spring in the Sir Barton Stakes, made a successful return to the races yesterday after recovering from ankle surgery. He won an $18,000 allowance race by five lengths over Asset Impression. . . . Laurel Race Course, in conjunction with the Maryland Racing Writers' Asso ciation, is instituting owner and trainer of the month awards. The winners for January are Baird Brittingham's Lakeville Stables (owner) and King Leatherbury (trainer). . . . A total of 38 fillies and mares have been nominated to the Feb. 19 $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap. More General George and Fritchie nominees could be received in the mail tomorrow.