Arlington Million

General Quarters Prepares for Battle of Arlington Handicap

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/09/2010 #

In Today's Notes: 

  • General Quarters Prepares for Battle of Arlington Handicap
  • Arlington Goes Green as Grass This Sunday
  • Castanon Scores His Hat Trick

Owner-trainer Tom McCarthy put Woodford Reserve winner General Quarters through his last serious move prior to the upcoming Grade III Arlington Handicap July 17 by accomplishing a five-furlong breeze in a recorded time of 1:02 on Tuesday at Churchill Downs.

"I got him going in 1:01 and change," said McCarthy of the move, "but the time doesn't really matter.   He went so well that I got exactly what I was looking for.

"(Jockey) Randall Toups was aboard for the work, and when he came back he said to me that if he'd have shook the reins at him a little bit he could have gone three seconds faster.  I told him that I was glad he didn't shake the reins, then, because what we got was exactly what I wanted.

"The horse is doing great," said McCarthy.  "The plan is to bring him up to Arlington next Wednesday (July 14) and the van should get in about 4:30 in the afternoon.   I'll probably drive up a little earlier with my wife in our car so that I can be there to unload him off the van.

"This will not be our first trip to Chicago together," Louisville resident McCarthy said.  "When we got married back in the early ‘60s, we got married on a Saturday and then pulled some horses up to Arlington the following Monday morning.  My wife still jokes about that trip, saying that was the first time she realized what she had gotten herself into by marrying me."

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.

The son of Sky Mesa remained on the main track this winter in New Orleans, finishing second in all three of Fair Grounds' graded stakes for older horses while McCarthy considered a grass campaign for General Quarters to lead up to the Grade I Arlington Million Aug. 21.

The first turf step on the road to the Million came in Churchill's Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, and General Quarters responded with a gutsy neck victory against some of the best turf horses in training at the time.  Following that, General Quarters was returned to the main track for Churchill's Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap June 12 - primarily because the colt needed a race prior to the Arlington Handicap.  General Quarters finished third beaten three and a half lengths.

The Arlington Handicap, at a mile and a quarter over Arlington's world famous turf course, is the local oval's designed prep for the Arlington Million five weeks later at the same distance on the grass.

Arlington's turf course has always been recognized as one of the finest in the world by internationally renowned horsemen, and that grassy terrain will be showcased Sunday when seven of the nine races of the day will be run over the local lawn.

"Sunday's program will be the most turf races on a single card outside of our annual Turf Showcase Day," noted Arlington historian Dave Zenner.  "This year, we will celebrate Turf Showcase Day on Labor Day Monday, Sept. 6."

Jockey Jesus Castanon, hanging his tack at Arlington for the entire season for the first time this summer, has been among the local leaders in the standings throughout 2010 as the season nears its half-way point, but amazingly had been without a three-win day until earlier this week.

On Monday, the Panamanian-born rider took the opener aboard Maple Ridge Bloodstock's Council Oak for trainer Donnie Von Hemel, came back to the winner's circle after the fourth astride Wyn Racing's Babes Bridge It for conditioner Andrew McKeever, and bookended the program with a third win on John Castro's Run for Sami for trainer Hugh Robertson.

One day earlier, Castanon had travelled to Louisville to win Churchill's Grade II Firecracker Handicap aboard Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth's Tizdejavu for conditioner Greg Fox.

Tizdejavu won Arlington's Grade II American Derby in 2008.