06/20/2003 11:00PM

Churchill: Mountain General scores upset


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Mountain General overcame traffic trouble amid a tight pack of older horses Saturday to post a narrow victory over favored Beau's Town in the 15th running of the Grade 3, $109,000 Aristides Handicap at Churchill Downs.

With Corey Lanerie riding, Mountain General was forced to alter course leaving the furlong pole in the 6 1/2-furlong Aristides, then made a winning charge up the rail to finish a head in front of Beau's Town. The winner returned $22.40 as fifth choice in a field of seven.

In a crowded finish, Pass Rush finished third by another neck, followed by Strength and Honor, Twilight Road, Slider, and Trion Georgia. Less than three lengths separated the top six finishers.

Mountain General was getting seven pounds from Beau's Town, the Cole Norman-trained gelding who carried 123 as the 8-5 favorite. Mountain General, a 5-year-old gelding by Mountain Cat, was making his first start since running 10th in the Churchill Downs Handicap on May 3.

"He's been training awesome," said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, who watched from Lone Star Park. "He always seems to run big with a little time off."

Mountain General finished in 1:16.01 over a fast track. The gelding now has won five stakes from his last 11 starts, and 9 of 25 overall starts. His earnings are $499,667.

No winning tickets were sold in the pick six, yielding a carryover of $100,745 into Sunday.

* Ipi Tombe has been assigned high weight of 123 pounds for the $150,000 Locust Grove Handicap, a Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile turf race here next Saturday. Trainer Elliott Walden has said Ipi Tombe is a possibility to run in the Locust Grove in what would be the Zimbabwe-bred mare's first U.S. start. Next on the weights list is Voodoo Dancer at 119 and Affluent and Turtle Bow, 118 each.

* Trainer Murray Johnson said he has settled on the July 13 Hollywood Gold Cup as the probable next start for Perfect Drift, winner of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap here June 14.