Thomas McCarthy’s General Quarters pulled a shocker and threw his name into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) mix, as he stalked the pace, took over rounding the far turn, and pulled away for a convincing 3 1/2-length score in the $221,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) for 3-year-olds at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 14.
Racing under the handling of James Lopez with blinkers off for the first time, General Quarters received a perfect stalking trip in back of pacesetter A.P. Cardinal, who posted reasonable fractions of :23.91, :47.77, and 1:12.25. Lopez guided the Sky Mesa
colt away from the rail as they advanced on the final turn and took over approaching the quarter-pole.
Holding a 2 1/2-length advantage at the eighth-pole, General Quarters continued to draw away in the final furlong and was never seriously challenged while going off at odds of 14-1. Sumo
, a 33-1 longshot, was a clear runner-up under Rene Douglas, three lengths better than third-place Musket Man
The final time for 1 1/16 miles on the main track was 1:43.54.
Racing at Tampa Bay for the third consecutive start, General Quarters turned the tables on current starters Top Seed and Musket Man. The gray/roan colt finished second by a length to Top Seed in the six-furlong Inaugural Stakes Dec. 27 and was also a length back of Musket Man last out in the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes Jan. 17.
Trained by Mark Miller, General Quarters won for just the second time in nine lifetime starts. It was his first start going more than a mile.
“I’m just real proud of him," said Miller, of the former claimer who took over training duties for McCarthy after being sent to Florida this winter . "He proved a lot today. I’m looking at the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III), as long as everything’s OK. That’s the next step.
"Mr. McCarthy got him in Kentucky; I was stabled next to him in Kentucky, and that’s how we met," he continued. "He sent the horse down here to me, and he just loves it here. He loves the track; this is the best place to be in the winter time. The track surface, the people, the atmosphere; the horse just loves it. And that’s all we’re trying to do: keep him happy. He seems to be on the improve."
Bred in Kentucky by Mr. And Mrs. David Randal, and out of the Unbridled's Song mare Ecology, General Quarter earned $120,000 for the Sam Davis triumph. He was a $20,000 purchase at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale.
The winner paid $29, $12.60, and $6.40, while Sumo returned $24 to place and $12.40 to show. The exacta (2-10) was worth $893.80, with the trifecta (10-2-5) netting $6,783.60.
Free Country, the 9-5 choice who entered off a convincing allowance victory at Gulfstream last month, finished fourth while lacking a sustained rally.