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General Quarters Tops Field for Grade III Arlington Handicap
Thomas McCarthy's General Quarters, winner of the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs in May, faces 10 rivals including Jonathan Sheppard's Just as Well in the Grade III $150,000 Arlington Handicap Saturday at Arlington Park.
The Arlington Handicap serves as the final local prep for the Grade I Arlington Million, which will be held Aug. 21, and will be run at the Million distance of a mile and a quarter over Arlington's world famous turf course.
The race is one of three major stakes that comprise the track's Million Preview Day program. In addition to the Arlington Handicap, the 11-race card includes the Grade II $200,000 American Derby and the Grade III $150,000 Modesty Handicap. As an added bonus, the 1-2-3 finishers in the Arlington Handicap will have their entry and starting fees waived for the Million should they elect to run in that event next month.
A son of Sky Mesa, General Quarters comes in off a third-place finish over dirt in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill last month and earlier this year was second in three main track stakes races at the Fair Grounds including the Grade II New Orleans Handicap.
As a 3-year-old last year, General Quarters won Tampa's Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes and Keeneland's Grade I Blue Grass on the road to the 2009 Triple Crown, but was compromised by a rough trip in the Kentucky Derby and subsequently injured in the Preakness. General Quarters will carry co-highweight of 122 pounds including Rafael Bejarano, who rode General Quarters in the Turf Classic.
Also in at 122 pounds is Robert S. Evans' Marsh Side, winner of the Grade I Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine last year and the Grade I Canadian International over that same course the previous year.
The 7-year-old Gone West horse, trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Neil Drysdale, returns to the turf after disappointing runs on dirt in the Group I Japan Cup last November, and on the synthetic Pro Ride surface at Santa Anita in the Grade II San Antonio Handicap and Grade I Santa Anita Handicap. Robby Albarado has been named to ride.
Defending champion Just as Well returns to Arlington in search of his first win since last year's Arlington Handicap. The son of A. P. Indy followed his local score with a second-place finish to Gio Ponti in the Arlington Million and a runner-up placing behind Marsh Side in the Northern Dancer. His best effort this year was a second in the Grade II Dixie Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day May 15. Assigned 119 pounds for Arlington Handicap, Just as Well will be ridden by Julien Leparoux.
Robert Courtney's Rahystrada, winner of the Grade III River City Handicap at Churchill last fall, most recently was third in the Dixie. The son of Rahy is trained by Byron Hughes and will be ridden by Inez Karlsson.
Others in the field for Saturday's Arlington Handicap include (with jockey and weight assignment): Thomas Fedro & Team Block's Free Fighter (Francisco Torres, 116 pounds), winner of the Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill in May; Virginia Tarra Trust's Giant Oak (Junior Alvarado, 116), reigning Illinois Horse of the Year; Barr Three LLC & Cherrywood Racing's Princeville Condo (Jesus Castanon, 114), runner-up in the Illinois Owners Stakes and Black Tie Affair Handicap in his last two starts; and Shadwell Stable's Tajaweed (Michael Baze, 114), an allowance winner over this course two starts back.
Also, Codelaria Jessica's Imponente Purse (James Graham, 113), group stakes placed in Brazil; George Ditola's Cross Village (E. T. Baird, 112), an allowance winner over this course; William Patterson's Rumor Has It (Florent Geroux, 110), a dual overnight stakes victor here last summer.