Updated on 09/16/2011 8:54AM

All eyes on Mountain General


NEW ORLEANS - The ovation from opening day has died down now. The audience is waiting to see what Mountain General will do for an encore.

Mountain Generalis Thanksgiving Day Handicap performance at Fair Grounds was good for a 6 1/2-length win. It also set a track record for six furlongs, and even on a fast-playing surface, his time of 1:08 at Fair Grounds was exceptional.

Observers were amazed at how fast Mountain General ran through the stretch.

iWhew, he was flying, wasnit he?i said trainer Andy Leggio, whose Gracieis Dancer finished second but was disqualified to third in the Thanksgiving Day.

Mountain General went off the 8-5 favorite last time. The big win and the presence of only five opponents will make his price much lower in Sundayis $75,000 Gaudin Handicap. Mountain General picks up three pounds off his win, and Steve Asmussen, who trains the gelding for his father, Keith, worries that Mountain General will regress this time. But will it matter?

Maybe. The group assembled for the Gaudin resembles the Thanksgiving Day as far as quality, but the race shapes up differently. A breakneck early pace helped set the table for Mountain General last time, but there is not as much speed here.

Cojet, who impressively won a Churchill allowance race in his last start, holds the key to the pace scenario. If he and Shane Sellers go for the lead from post 1, a duel with the speedy Gracieis Dancer should ensue, and Mountain General will get the trip again. But if Cojet backs off, slower fractions could make Mountain General work harder for his money in this stretch run.

But in considering an upset, a question looms: Is a step back by Mountain General and a step up by one of the prime alternatives enough to reverse the previous outcome? Quite possibly not. Mountain General has been consistent since being gelded last fall.

Even with a tough inside post, Cojet has the most appeal as an upsetter. He flopped last season in his lone start over this track surface, finishing a distant third in a soft edition of the $75,000 Sugar Bowl, but after struggling a bit in several starts earlier this year, Cojet found himself this fall. He won a Keeneland allowance race after a long layoff, and his Nov. 26 trouncing of the high-quality Binthebest stamps Cojet as a horse on the rise.

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