Two-time grade I winner General Quarters tops the list of probable starters for the $200,000 WinStar Kentucky Cup (gr. II) at Turfway Park Sept. 24, though decisions regarding several nominees remained up in the air as of Sept. 19.
The 1 1/16-mile test on Polytrack highlights a card that includes four other stakes, two of which are graded.
Tom McCarthy, the 77-year-old former school principal who trains General Quarters, is using the Kentucky Cup as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs for the 2009 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner.
“The Kentucky Cup fits in nicely time-wise with the Breeders’ Cup,” McCarthy said. “It’s debatable which (Breeders’) Cup race I might look at. I want to see how he does on Saturday.”
General Quarters won his second grade I in the 2010 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs. This year, General Quarters ran second in a dirt sprint at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots before a pair of seventh-place finishes in graded stakes company.
“I found a little something that was bothering him,” he said. “He was struggling with his tongue tie and actually cut open his tongue last time. He had been getting a little hard to saddle in races lately. It turns out that he didn’t want the tongue tie, and I didn’t listen.
"I don’t train him with one, so I wouldn’t have noticed anything in the mornings. The whole thing was so simple, it was stupid.”
Among others likely to run in the Kentucky Cup is 7-year-old Strike Impact, third in the Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) Churchill two races back and second, beaten a neck, in the West Virginia Speakers Cup Handicap in his last start at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort.
Strike Impact is the only horse in the stable of Pat Dupuy, husband of Courier-Journal turf writer Jennie Rees. Though Rees is assigned to cover the WinStar Kentucky Cup Day races, she will report on all the other four stakes on the card but not the feature because her supervisors deem it a conflict of interest.
“They feel it would be a conflict of interest,” Rees said. “The issue never came up until the Firecracker Handicap on the Fourth of July. It may never happen again, but I hope it does.”
“He’s real good right now,” said Dupuy, who claimed Strike Impact for $25,000 July 25, 2009, at Arlington Park and has saddled him for seven wins out of 20 starts since the claim. “This horse has some quirks. In another stable he’d probably fall between the cracks. He’d be just another horse.
"I put in a lot of time with him. He gets a lot of attention.”
Strike Impact’s last six races have been on grass, but from 31 starts on artificial surfaces he has 11 victories.
“It’s a good time to take a shot,” Dupuy said. “With so much racing going on, horses are shipping everywhere. I was hoping the race would come up a little light, but for $200,000 you know some good ones are going to show up.”
Calvin Borel will be aboard Churchill-based Strike Impact.
As of Sept. 19 other probables for the WinStar Kentucky Cup were Baryshnikov (trainer Mike Maker), Demarcation (Paul McGee), Future Prospect (D. H. Skaggs), Shediak (Ben D. A. Cecil), and Workin for Hops (Mike Stidham).
Fields for the two other graded stakes on the Kentucky Cup card are also shaping up.
Expected so far for the $100,000 Distorted Humor Kentucky Cup Distaff (gr. III) are Ailalea (Todd Pletcher), Bella Medaglia (Bret Calhoun), High Quality (Paul McGee), Kiss Mine (David Vance), La Gran Bailadora (Mike Maker), Secret File (Charles Lopresti), and Upperline (Mike Stidham). The Distaff is for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up at 1 1/16 miles.
The Speightstown Kentucky Cup Sprint (gr. III) has to date sparked interest from Lou Brissie (Mike Maker), Song of Humor (Milton Gaede), Cal Nation (Todd Pletcher), Matthewsburg (Maker), Philippe (Jimmy Baker), Free Entry (Ron Moquett), Unsaddled Glory (Ernie Retamoza), Will's Wildcat (Baker), and Chilled ( Paul McGee). The $100,000 Speightstown Sprint is carded for 3-year-olds going six furlongs.
The WinStar Kentucky Cup Day of Champions card will be broadcast live by TVG, with hosts Mike Joyce, Tom Amoss, and Donna Barton Brothers. First post on Saturday is 1:10 p.m. EDT.