02/23/2009 1:00AM

Georgie Boy sprints to the top

Benoit & Associates
Georgie Boy (left) blasts to the lead under Garrett Gomez en route to winning the San Carlos.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The time off that Georgie Boy got last year is paying dividends now. In his fourth start since returning from a seven-month vacation, Georgie Boy roared to the top of the West Coast sprint division with an easy, 2 3/4-length victory in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Carlos Handicap on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Georgie Boy, under Garrett Gomez, turned in a prototypical race for a late-running sprinter. He settled into fourth position in the six-horse field early in the race, moved four paths wide on the final turn to challenge for the lead, then put away his rivals at mid-stretch and drew clear. Halo Najib finished second, with Past the Point another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

Georgie Boy ($3) completed seven furlongs on Pro-Ride in 1:21.85.

Yankee Bravo, making his first start since the Preakness, was uncontrollable early and opened a long lead while setting fractions of 23.25 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.25 seconds for a half-mile. Gomez kept Georgie Boy about six lengths behind before rallying.

The win was the second straight for Georgie Boy, 4, and his sixth in 11 lifetime starts. But it was a long road back for the gelding, one that required patience on the part of both Kathy Walsh, who trains Georgie Boy, and George Schwary, who bred and owns his namesake. Georgie Boy went to the sidelines last spring after winning the San Felipe Stakes, a key prep for the Santa Anita Derby. He did not return until October.

"You try to make sure you stop at the right time. You want to do what's best for the horse and for the owner," Walsh said. "Sometimes you have to do it. Then you have to be extremely careful and not try to catch up. You know better, but you still have to guard against doing it. There's a lot of pressure to get a horse like this back to top form."

Walsh acknowledged she knew many thought Georgie Boy had seen better days after losing his first two starts following his time off, but she believed he would steadily improve. She deflected praise, saying her whole barn contributed, including exercise rider Andy Durnin, who she credited with getting Georgie Boy to relax.

Walsh said a two-turn race, or even a race on grass, might be in the future for Georgie Boy. "I think he'll stretch out, especially with Garrett riding him," Walsh said.