'Skier' glides into town as salute to Gen. George Purse lures Fla. trainer of the flashy 4-year-old


Appealing Skier defeated Unbridled's Song. He raced in the Grade I Florida Derby, Belmont Stakes, Breeders' Cup Sprint and NYRA Mile.

Today, the flashy 4-year-old trained by the wily Ben W. Perkins Sr. turns up at Laurel Park for the $200,000 General George Handicap. The seven-furlong sprint with its Grade II rating and hefty purse caught Perkins' eye all the way down in south Florida.

"That's why we're coming," Perkins said from his barn at Gulfstream Park. "That's not to say there aren't some good horses in there. But for that kind of money, we had to take a chance."

Correction, Ben. "We're" not exactly coming. Appealing Skier is, but Perkins is not. "It's too cold for me up there," he said.

His son, Ben Jr., is down from his barn at New York's Aqueduct Park to saddle Appealing Skier. They hope for a repeat of last year's General George, won by Meadow Monster, also trained by Ben Sr.

This could be a replay of Saturday's Barbara Fritchie Handicap, another Grade II, seven-furlong sprint at Laurel with a $200,000 purse. John Kimmel, trainer of the winner, Miss Golden Circle, shunned Maryland in favor of Gulfstream Park, where fans watched in short-sleeve shirts.

So Maryland can offer the stakes, but not the weather.

A bit of chill won't bother Dick Dutrow or Mary JoAnne Hughes, who train the two hot horses in the General George, both Maryland-breds with a loyal local following. And those two horses, Dutrow's Romano Gucci and Hughes' Mary's Buckaroo, drew intriguing post positions from which to attack the speedy Appealing Skier, breaking from the No. 2 post.

Romano Gucci drew No. 1, snug along the rail. And Mary's Buckaroo drew the far outside, No. 10.

As Miss Golden Circle proved Saturday, starting from the 11th slot, an outside panorama is beneficial if your operator's manual contains tactical early speed. That may be a problem for Mary's Buckaroo.

"He'll run the same way he always runs; he doesn't run any other way," said Hughes, his cheerful trainer. "He just catches a gear, and that's it."

She described the 6-year-old gray gelding as a "closing sprinter" whose best distance is seven-eighths of a mile, today's distance.

Down on the rail, Romano Gucci must avoid getting boxed in. But he has the prerequisite tactical speed. And he has Maryland's top jockey, Edgar Prado.

The pair teamed Feb. 1 for a smashing victory in the six-furlong Hoover Stakes at Laurel. That was Romano Gucci's first outing in Maryland, and first as a 4-year-old, after his promising 3-year-old season was cut short by illness.

Pub Date: 2/17/97

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