General Quarters, who scored the biggest turf win of his career last year at Churchill Downs, returns as the 119-pound high weight in the $175,000 Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) on closing day of the 38-day spring meet.
The 5-year-old son of Sky Mesa will meet 10 rivals July 4 in the one-mile turf contest including Wise Dan, making his turf debut in his 10th start, and the speedy Baryshnikov, who provided a tough test for Paddy O'Prado in his last start. Post time for the feature on the 11-race card is set for 5:25 p.m. EDT.
Owned and trained by Tom McCarthy, General Quarters has one win in four career tries on grass but it was a big one. He captured the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill in 2010 and the victory put him over $1 million in career earnings. The gray/roan horse has run on turf twice since then, finishing off the board both times. In his only start this season he missed by a neck in a June 10 optional claimer on the Churchill main track.
McCarthy has assigned Jamie Theriot to ride General Quarters, who won the Sam F. Davis (gr. III) and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) as a 3-year-old. They drew the rail.
Morton Fink’s Wise Dan showed a lot of promise as a 3-year-old last year when he won four of six starts and made an appearance in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I). But he is winless and off the board in three races this season including an eighth-place effort in the May 16 Alysheba (gr. III) over the Churchill dirt.
Trainer Charles Lopresti worked Wise Dan on turf for the first time June 28 (four furlongs in :48 4/5) and was happy with what he saw. He will give a leg up to Jon Court in the Firecracker.
A gelded son of Wiseman's Ferry, Wise Dan tallied his lone stakes win in the Phoenix (gr. III) last fall on the Keeneland Polytrack.
Jeffrey Columbro and Connie Apostelos’ Baryshnikov was 12th in last year’s Firecracker and running in $15,000 claiming races as recently as last December, but has really turned things around recently. During the last six months he has won five of seven races including the March 19 Tejano Run Stakes on Turfway Park’s Polytrack and most recently gave turf star Paddy O’Prado a scare in the May 21 Dixie (gr. IIT) at Pimlico when he led the nine-furlong race most of the way before giving way late to fall 1 1/2 lengths short in second.
By Empire Maker, 5-year-old Baryshnikov has compiled a 7-6-5 record from 34 starts and earnings of $246,343. The meet’s leading rider, Julien Leparoux, will retain the mount.
Two other main contenders are hard-knocking veteran Strike Impact and multiple graded stakes placed Mister Marti Gras. The 7-year-old Strike Impact has earned more than $465,000 from 16 wins and 54 lifetime starts. The gelded son of Smart Strike has never won a stakes but finished second in the Colonel Power earlier this year at Fair Grounds and has won his last two starts, both optional claimers on the Churchill turf in May. Robby Albarado will ride for Patrick Dupuy.
Mister Marti Gras is also entering off an optional claiming victory over the Churchill grass, that coming on June 3. He has hit the board in three graded stakes during his 15-start career, including a third-place effort in the Ben Ali (gr. III) on the Keeneland Polytrack in April. Shaun Bridgmohan will have the mount for Chris Block.
$175,000 Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 10, 5:25 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. General Quarters (KY), J Theriot, 119, T R McCarthy
2. Omniscient (KY), M R Cruz, 113, S M Asmussen
3. Mister Marti Gras (KY), S Bridgmohan, 115, C M Block
4. El Caballo (KY), C J Lanerie, 114, R E Nicks
5. Mystic (KY), J L Castanon, 114, W I Mott
6. Joshua Reynolds (KY), B J Hernandez Jr., 114, R E Nicks
7. Baryshnikov (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, M J Maker
8. Plutonium (KY), J Lopez, 112, D E Pate
9. Strike Impact (KY), R Albarado, 117, P J Dupuy
10. Wise Dan (KY), J K Court, 115, C Lopresti
11. Lubash (NY), K J Desormeaux, 115, J T Ryerson