So Long George, a 10-1 longshot, made the grade with his first added-money score in Sunday’s Grade 2 $216,000 Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes, at Woodbine.
Trained by John Charalambous for Uphill Stable, So Long George arrived at the Nijinsky off a closing fourth-place run in the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes won by Nijinsky rival Riding the River.
A four-year-old son of Arch, the improving So Long George won four of nine starts as a sophomore while climbing up the ranks from claiming to allowance races.
In the Nijinsky, a 1/18-mile test over a firm E.P Taylor Turf Course, Emma-Jayne Wilson settled along the rail with So Long George and tracked the dueling Valentino Beauty and Artic Fern through splits of :24.29 and :47.67.
Valentino Beauty assumed the lead at the top of the lane, but Wilson and So Long George surged up the rail with a powerful run, holding off a late charge from 22-1 shot Hampstead Heath. So Long George, a 3/4-length winner, covered nine furlongs in 1:45.28.
Wilson allowed So Long George to find his legs as the front-runners dueled.
“‘George’ was just tracking them easy. I took him where he took me. He’s an easy horse to ride, so I went along with the flow of the race and that’s where I found myself,” said Wilson.
Beaming in the winner’s circle, Wilson was clearly proud of the effort put forth by the dark bay gelding.
“Every time we’ve asked ‘George’ a question, he’s stepped up and answered with a resounding ‘Yes’,” she said. “John has done a marvelous job slowly stepping this horse up and giving him confidence.”
Charalambous noted that So Long George has made great strides as a racehorse from humble beginnings.
“When I first got him, he was life and death to make time breezing. To be standing here (in the winner’s circle) is pretty exciting,” said Charalambous.
So Long George, who captured a $23,500 claiming event last September, now looks to be a top contender for Woodbine’s lucrative fall turf campaign.
“He just kept stepping up and stepping up,” said Charalambous. “We put him in tougher races and he responded. You don’t know how proud I am of this horse.”
So Long George banked $120,000 in victory, while improving his record to 6-1-0 from 13 career starts.
He returned $23.60, $11.20 and $5.30, pairing with Hampstead Heath ($19.10, $8.40) for a $423.40 (4-6) exactor. A 4-6-2 (Grand Arch, $3.60 to show) triactor was worth $1,578.20. Classic Bryce completed a $1 Superfecta (4-6-2-10) worth $10,465.65.