02/15/2017 3:00PM

General George contender Heaven's Runway improving with age

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
The 7-year-old Heaven's Runway will be one of the top choices in Saturday's General George.

For the bulk of his five seasons on the racetrack, Heaven’s Runway ground out a steady living, racing seven to 10 times a year and earning between $80,000 and $100,000 a season. Not bad for a horse who won five of his first 39 starts, but distinctly blue collar.

Now, at this advanced stage of his career, Heaven’s Runway seems to have turned a corner. Since being claimed by Rudy Rodriguez for $62,500 out of a second-place finish in an optional-claiming race at Saratoga, he has gone 2 for 3, with the victories coming in stakes, and earned $164,000. On Saturday at Laurel Park, he will go postward as one of the top choices in the Grade 3 General George, a seven-furlong stakes for 4-year-olds and up.

“He didn’t win a lot, but we always liked him because he was a consistent horse,” Rodriguez said.

Heaven’s Runway made his first 29 starts for his breeders, K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman, while racing for seven different trainers. He started his career in 2012 by winning two of his first four starts, all at Presque Isle Downs, including the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile.

Heaven’s Runway would win only three of his next 35 races, with his most important victory coming in the $50,000 Hockessin Stakes at Delaware Park in July 2015. When Rodriguez claimed him last summer, he was winless in 10 starts over 13 months dating back to that race.

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Since joining Rodriguez’s stable, Heaven’s Runway has finished fourth in an optional-claiming turf sprint at Belmont Park, run down expected General George favorite Stallwalkin’ Dude to win the Grade 3 Fall Highweight at Aqueduct, and scored a half-length victory in the Dave’s Friend Stakes at Laurel.

In typically modest style, Rodriguez deflects credit for the turnaround.

“I think we were lucky and got him at the right time,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a nice horse and he tries very hard for us.”

Now 7, Heaven’s Runway seems primed for his best season yet.