05/27/2008 11:00PM

Independent George scores

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Early in the week, trainer Graham Motion said he was running Independent George in the Sussex Stakes at Delaware Park on Wednesday as a prep for the $175,000 Presque Isle Mile on July 4. And a nice prep it was, as Independent George collared pacesetter Formal Decree a jump or two from the wire and won the $75,900 Sussex by a neck.

Sensing a slow pace in the 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up, Mario Pino hustled Formal Decree from last in the field of eight at the start to the lead by the first quarter, setting slow fractions of 25.66 and 50.64 seconds for the quarter and half and 1:14.32 for six furlongs.

Formal Decree led by 1 1/2 lengths turning for home as Independent George rallied in the middle of the course from seventh to fourth under Ramon Dominguez, and just kept coming.

Diamond Fever closed for a third, two lengths behind Formal Degree. Makaan, the 8-5 favorite, hung near the pace till upper stretch, then weakened to finish fifth.

Independent George was timed in 1:45.17 on firm turf and paid $7.80. Owned by Bushwood Stables LLC, the 5-year-old gelded son of Cozzene improved his record to 5 wins, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds in 14 starts and his earnings to $275,245.

Six entrants were scratched, including the three main-track-onlys and the morning-line favorite, Silver Tree, who won the Grade 3 Fort Marcy at Aqueduct in his last start.