Preakness Stakes Profile: General Quarters
by Trevor Whenham - 05/12/2009
Last race: General Quarters finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby. He managed to avoid trouble, but he was his own worst enemy. He didn't settle around the first turn, burning a lot of energy in the process. In the second turn he was forced wide and again looked unsettled. As a result, he didn't have much left when he was asked to mount a final rally in the stretch and had to settle for just maintaining his position. Like so many horses, he didn't have anywhere close to his best day in the Derby, but he came out of it all very well.
Career highlights: This is one of those stories that would be totally unbelievable if it were a movie or a book instead of real life. Owner and trainer Tom McCarthy tried to buy this horse as a yearling, but backed off when the price at auction hit $20,000. He had regrets about not pulling the trigger, but he was able to get a second chance when he claimed the horse for the same $20,000 price in his career debut. Horses that run in mid-level maiden claimers don't normally end up in the biggest race in the world, but this one did. En route, he had two wins in graded stakes in the Sam F. Davis and the Blue Grass. Sandwiched in between those two big wins was a disappointing fifth-place showing in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Jockey: Julien Leparoux. Leparoux picked up the ride on this horse a week before the Derby. He had previously been ridden by Eibar Coa, but trainer Tom McCarthy got impatient with the time Coa was taking to choose between his horse and Musket Man, so he went ahead and made the change. Leparoux' path to the horse is an interesting one - McCarthy is a former school teacher, and the jockey's agent is one of McCarthy's former students. The French jockey has only been riding since 2005, but he has already put together an impressive string of meet titles on the Kentucky circuit. He has yet to win a Triple Crown race, but does have two Breeders' Cup wins.
Trainer: Tom McCarthy. This is another Disney-esque element to this story. McCarthy trains just one horse. He's the trainer, owner, groom, and everything else. He's 75 and otherwise retired, so this horse gets more care and attention than any horse out there. McCarthy is from Louisville, and he bought this horse for one last shot at his hometown race. Miraculously, he got it.
Breeding: Like General Quarters, his grandsire sire Pulpit was also a Blue Grass Stakes winner. He ran in the Kentucky Derby in 1997, but was injured in the race and retired afterwards. Pulpit's sire is the great A.P. Indy, winner of the 1992 Belmont. General Quarter's dam, Ecology, was sired by Unbridled's Song. That horse finished fifth as the favorite in the 1996 Derby. Given all those connections to greatness and Triple Crown success it's not hard to see what McCarthy liked about this horse.
Running style: Typically, the horse settles off the pace in the middle of the following pack before launching a bid around the final turn. He isn't a particularly assertive horse, and because of that he has a bad habit of being forced outside on turns. That makes him run further than he should, and causes him the problems he has at times. A smaller race would give him less chance of getting in trouble.
Preakness prognosis: Since facing top stakes competition he has established a pattern - a win followed by a disappointing performance. He's on again, off again, and by that logic he should be on in the Preakness. That might be a bit optimistic given how the field is developing for the Preakness, but chances are good that he will have a better day than he did in Louisville. I don't see him winning, but he's definitely a factor in exotics.