Horses that skipped last month's $200,000 General George Stakes at Laurel Park excelled yesterday against lesser competition for a far cheaper purse.
Night Spirit came out on top in the $32,225 Endless Surprise Stakes that attracted a number of other older horses that had bypassed Laurel's rich winter Sprintfest.
"Who knows if we could have won the General George? But my horse prefers six furlongs rather then the seven-furlong George distance, so that's why we ran here," said Ferris Allen, trainer of the son of 1977 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew.
Forest Wildcat, who had set the pace but faded to last in the General George, resurfaced in yesterday's softer spot.
But the result was largely the same.
The Storm Cat colt set quicker fractions yesterday and held onto the lead a bit longer, but still tired in the stretch, beating one horse.
Night Spirit swept from off the pace under Larry Reynolds, running the six furlongs in 1 minute, 10 seconds, and finishing 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Popol's Gold. Lazy Luke was a nose farther back in third. Both of those horses had also been General George-bound, but opted for yesterday's weaker race.
Night Spirit is owned by Burning Daylight Farm near Charlottesville, Va.
NOTES: Another generation of Vanderbilts is showing an interest in horse racing. Michael Vanderbilt, son of Alfred G. Vanderbilt, a former president of Pimlico Race Course, was at Laurel yesterday to watch his father's We Wak Harbor win the eighth race. The horse's trainer, Mary Eppler, has had a lucrative winter. Last month, New York owner-trainer Murray Garren claimed Eppler's 3-year-old colt, Larchmont, from her for $50,000. During the same period, Eppler also sold her stakes-winning mare, Saturday Affair, to Nina and Tim Gardner of Glyndon for $25,000 as a broodmare prospect. . . . Bowie horsewoman Julia Oughton has formed her own stable and hopes to get into the claiming game at the upcoming Pimlico meet. Pimlico's live meet starts April 4. . . . Josephine Owens' Square Up The Bet returned in fine shape after her upset last weekend over White Cliffs and is being pointed for the March 26 Wide Country Stakes at Laurel. . . . Jiggs Lancaster's Oh Summer will be among the favorites in Saturday's $60,000 Politely Stakes for Maryland-bred 3-year-old fillies.