02/20/2003 12:00AM

New cast, new favorite

Email

When the race was redrawn after it was postponed from Presidents Day to Saturday, the General George Handicap remained a 12-horse race. Not all the horses are the same, however.

Gone is Affirmed Success, the probable favorite, who will remain in New York to await the Toboggan Handicap on March 15. In his place is Peeping Tom, who won the 2001 General George and showed signs of reviving his career by winning an allowance race at Aqueduct earlier this month.

In the revised lineup for the Grade 2, $200,000 General George, Southern California invader Disturbingthepeace inherits the favorite's role. Trained by Darrell Vienna, the 5-year-old Disturbingthepeace won three Grade 2 races in Southern California last year. Most recently, Disturbingthepeace finished third in the six-furlong Palos Verde Handicap last month at Santa Anita.

Ryan Fogelsonger, Laurel's leading rider, will be riding Disturbingthepeace for the first time. He watched the horse run in the Palos Verde the day before receiving the Eclipse Award as the leading apprentice of 2002 and galloped Disturbingthepeace on Thursday morning at Laurel.

"While I was in Los Angeles for the Eclipse Award last month, I got a chance to see him run at Santa Anita," Fogelsonger said. "The assistant trainer told me that seven furlongs is his best distance, so this is a tremendous opportunity."

Jockey Kent Desormeaux and trainer Bob Hess Jr. will probably be rooting for the weatherman to be right about the probability of rain Saturday. Their California-based horse D'wildcat scored the biggest victory of his career in the slop at Laurel last fall in the De Francis Memorial Dash.

"He's a horse with no give in his stride," Desormeaux said. "He doesn't quit and will run through nails, and that certainly helped him in the Dash. He's a competitor and hates to lose, so, hopefully, his orneriness will show up and we'll get the job done."

Beyond the two West Coast horses, the strongest contender looks like Shake the Dice, a one-time claimer who has strung together five straight wins for trainer Scott Lake. Lake also has My Cousin Matt, winner of the Great State Challenge at Sam Houston in early December. Lake's two horses will run uncoupled.

The wild card could be Peeping Tom. Now 6 years old, Peeping Tom went winless for 364 days, including twice when racing against claimers, until he woke up to earn a 104 Beyer Speed Figure in a six-furlong allowance win on Feb. 9 in New York. Seven furlongs, at which he is 5 for 9 lifetime, is his best distance, and Peeping Tom also excels over a wet track.

Pupil leads Racing Media Handicap

Pupil, who has been first or second in all eight of her career starts, appears to be the horse to beat in the $75,000 Maryland Racing Media Handicap. She is based at Philadelphia Park with trainer John Servis, who has won with 4 of the 7 horses he has started at the meet.

Pupil's chief competition in the 1 1/8-mile race should come from Pass the Virtue, who has been no worse than third in her last three stakes starts at Laurel, and Shop Till You Drop, who finished three-quarters of a length behind Pass the Virtue in the Grade 3 Anne Arundel in December.