11/28/2002 1:00AM

Fair Grounds: Mountain General, track record


NEW ORLEANS - Steve Asmussen brightened this week when asked how Mountain General had been training over the Fair Grounds surface. By late Thursday afternoon, it was obvious why. Racing several lengths behind a torrid pace, Mountain General split horses in midstretch and sped to a 6 1/2-length win on opening day at Fair Grounds.

Racing on a very quick surface, Mountain General's time of 1:08.03 for six furlongs set a track record, eclipsing Hallowed Dreams's old mark of 1:08.34 set two seasons ago. He returned $5.60 to win.

Last year, Mountain General's career stagnated and after turning in a dull fourth-place finish at Churchill Downs last November, Mountain General was gelded. With hormones no longer a distraction, Mountain General evolved into a high-quality sprinter-miler this season. He won the $75,000 Bob Johnson at Lone Star in July, and late last month turned in a good second-place finish in the Grade 3 Ack Ack.

There was no stopping him on Thursday. Corey Lanerie, who won his fifth race of the day aboard Mountain General, let Mountain General settle near the back of the field as Gracie's Dancer and Aloha Bold dueled through fractions of 21.69 seconds for a quarter-mile and 44.63 for a half. Mountain General moved up easily on the turn, and as the speed horses began to tire Lanerie guided him through a hole about three paths off the rail. Striding out impressively, Mountain General quickly opened up and went on to his easy victory, Asmussen's third on the card. Mountain General is owned by Steve Asmussen's father, Keith Asmussen.

Gracie's Dancer ran gamely to hold second, but was disqualified to fourth because he interfered with Aloha Bold on the backstretch. Wild Summer, who had finished third, was placed second, with Aloha Bold moved up to the show spot. Attendance Thursday, opening day of the meet, was 7,466.