02/14/2009 1:00AM

Fabulous Strike faces heavy task

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With his connections having canceled plans to race him in Dubai, Fabulous Strike kicks off his 2009 North American tour Monday at Laurel Park, where he hopes to maintain his status as one of the elite sprinters in the country in the Grade 2 General George Handicap.

The $150,000 General George presents several obstacles to the 6-year-old Fabulous Strike, including distance, a hefty weight assignment and, in True Quality, at least one worthy opponent.

Fabulous Strike has proven himself a six-furlong specialist with nine of his 12 lifetime victories coming at that distance. He has attempted the General George distance of seven furlongs only once - that being a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont three years ago.

Fabulous Strike must carry 127 pounds Monday, spotting his five rivals 10 to 15 pounds. If successful, Fabulous Strike would become the first horse to win the General George while carrying that much weight. Senor Speedy carried 126 to victory in 1992.

Fabulous Strike defeated True Quality in the Grade 3 Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct on Dec. 27. In that race, Fabulous Strike came from off the pace, stalking True Quality - to whom he was conceding 11 pounds - until the sixteenth pole before drawing clear. Trainer Todd Beattie had said all along he felt Fabulous Strike could rate and that race proved him right.

"He ought to be better at it this time," Beattie said. "He was a little confused last time. He should be a little more prepared for it."

With regular rider Ramon Dominguez in Oaklawn Monday to ride Old Fashioned in the Southwest, two-time General George winner Edgar Prado rides Fabulous Strike from post 3.

After finishing second in the Gravesend, True Quality came back to romp in the Paumonok Stakes at Aqueduct. Coincidentally, his only try at seven furlongs resulted in a third-place finish in last year's Woody Stephens. His trainer, John Campo Jr., believes seven furlongs won't be an issue.

"We think he wants to go a little further," said Campo, who trains True Quality for the Paraneck Stable. "He goes two miles in the morning like there's no tomorrow. The second time around he's stronger than the first."

True Quality does his best running on the front end and breaking inside of Fabulous Strike he figures to be there again under Chuck Lopez. Malibu Kid is another speedy sort.