05/25/2013 7:08PM

Arlington: General Election survives claims of foul to take Classic in turf debut

Four-Footed Fotos
Joe Rocco, riding at Arlington Park for the first time, guides General Election to victory in the Arlington Classic.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Jockey Joe Rocco Jr.’s first day at Arlington Park nearly turned ugly. Rocco gave General Election a fine ride in the Grade 3, $150,000 Arlington Classic, saving ground the entire trip, and coming up the fence to finish first, but before celebrations could commence, Rocco had to wait out a stewards’ inquiry and multiple objections for deep-stretch interference against fourth-place Gefest. In the end, Rocco’s number stayed up, and General Election had won the first grass start of his career.

Rocco and General Election did drift out at about the furlong pole, and Gefest, fading a bit between horses, got squeezed and hampered when Dorsett simultaneously came in. Jockey Rosemary Homeister and trainer Gennadi Dorochenko in the Gefest camp lodged objections against General Election and Dorsett, but only the latter came down.

“I felt it hindered my horse more than he hindered others,” Rocco said.

General Election was a 13-1 shot who paid $28.20, but he was a worthy victor. After winning his debut over seven furlongs on dirt last fall at Churchill Downs, General Election was well regarded as an early-season 3-year-old prospect of 2013: In an allowance race last Dec. 26, he actually was favored over Mylute, who would finish fifth in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness. General Election lost by 10 lengths in that start but subsequently ran two good races on Polytrack, winning the Battaglia at Turfway and finishing second in the Lexington at Keeneland.

A Harlan’s Holiday colt owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Kellyn Gorder, General Election raced for the first time on grass Saturday and seemed entirely comfortable on the surface. Rocco took him back and to the fence as longshot Bell’s Big Bernie towed the field through an opening quarter-mile that went in a solid 23.86 seconds before the pace slowed on the backstretch, the leader passing the half in a pedestrian 49.10. The decreased tempo worked against favored Admiral Kitten, who did not break well, jockey Mike Smith said, and was stuck near the back of a 12-horse field until the far turn.

Rocco, meanwhile, never left the rail, slipping through a couple tight spots before finding plenty of room for General Election in the stretch run. While Admiral Kitten had to swing far to the outside for his move, General Election ducked inside a tiring Bells Big Bernie and came home with a good rally, stopping the timer in 1:45.48 for 1 1/16 miles over turf on the yielding side of good.

Admiral Kitten rallied resolutely on the outside but came up one length short of General Election while finishing a head in front of Dorsett, who made a nice run into the stretch. Gefest was another nose back in fourth, with second choice Procurement just a neck farther behind in fifth.