Tom McCarthy’s General Quarters, who won Keeneland’s Grade I Blue Grass Stakes over the Lexington
Polytrack in 2009 and Churchill’s Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf over the Louisville
lawn last year, will return to Polytrack for the first time since his Blue
Grass victory for Arlington’s
Grade III Washington Park Handicap Sept. 3.
The Washington Park Handicap,
which will be observing its 77th renewal on this upcoming Labor Day weekend,
was first run at Arlington
Park in 1958. The
race’s history is as colorful as that of Tom McCarthy, General Quarters’
77-year-old owner-trainer who began training horses in his teenage years but
also had a career in education including a stint as a high school principal in Louisville.
McCarthy brought General
Quarters to Chicago’s
northwest suburban oval for last year’s Grade III Arlington Handicap and Grade
I Arlington Million with disappointing sixth and seventh-place finishes over
the local lawn. A knee chip necessitating surgery was
discovered shortly after the Million and a long layoff ensued – partially on a Kentucky
farm and partially at New Orleans’
Fair Grounds last winter.
The 5-year-old son of Sky Mesa
had his first race back in a seven-furlong $100,000 optional claiming race June
10 over Churchill’s main track and he finished second by a neck after racing
wide throughout. His second race back – in Churchill’s Grade II
Firecracker Handicap on July 4 – proved unfortunate for both the horse and his
General Quarters finished
seventh in the Firecracker without ever launching a serious bid, and McCarthy,
who had suffered dizzy spells throughout the afternoon, was transported by
ambulance to the hospital shortly after the race.
Fortunately, both the
hands-on-owner-trainer-groom-hotwalker and his horse are doing a lot better in
the month of August.
McCarthy’s own health has made
an impressive comeback recently and General Quarters accomplished a bullet five
furlong breeze in 1:01 flat over Churchill’s main track Wednesday.
“The track was dead that day,”
said McCarthy of General Quarters’ encouraging mid-week move. “Most of
the horses went five furlongs in 1:04, but he just poured it on. He got
the last eighth in 11 seconds. Jamie Theriot, who has been riding him,
got hurt that morning, so my old friend Jon
Court got on him for the work and he couldn’t
believe how well he went. He was very impressed, so if Jamie can’t ride
him next week, Jon will come up to ride him.”
More important was the status
of McCarthy’s own health after that scary trip to the hospital on America’s
Birthday, and he was asked about that.
“I don’t remember too much
about that day,” said McCarthy. “I’d been feeling lousy for several days
and by the time they got me to the hospital I was pretty much out of it, but I
guess when they got me to the hospital all my vital signs checked out all right
so they had to look for something else. Eventually, they discovered my
electrolytes were way out of balance.
“A whole lot of things had
been happening to me leading up to that day,” said McCarthy. “That same
tornado that tore up those barns at Churchill uprooted a tree in our yard at
home and sent it through the roof of our house while my wife (Pat) and I were
inside. Fortunately, we were not hurt but something like that takes its
toll on you.
“I’m feeling a lot better
now,” McCarthy said. “I’ve had to change a few things. I’m eating a
lot healthier foods now, and they’ve got me taking a lot of vitamins these days
so everything seems to be coming around for me.
“I’ll send the horse up there
on the shuttle next Thursday after he has a gallop earlier that morning.
He’ll go to Cory’s (Arlington
trainer Patton’s) barn and I’ll drive up there to get in town Friday afternoon
and stay there Friday and Saturday night. I’m looking forward to coming
back to Arlington.
Everybody treated us so well there last year, and hopefully the horse will run
a lot better this time. He’s certainly been acting like he will over
these last few days.”
WORKERS SATURDAY MORNING AT ARLINGTON
projected runner Workin for Hops, owned by Estrorace LLC, breezed five furlongs
in 1:00 flat Saturday morning with Hilary Pridham in the irons.
Trained by Mike Stidham,
Workin for Hops won this spring’s Grade III Hanshin Cup over the Polytrack at Arlington
and last year’s $100,000 Arlington Classic and Grade II American Derby over Arlington’s
world famous turf course.
Two Gerard Butler trainees,
Michael Deegan’s 4-year-old filly Maristar and Asaad Al Banwan’s 3-year-old
colt Burj Alzain, worked seven furlongs in company in possible preparation for
the Washington Park Handicap. Maristar got the distance in 1:25.60 and
Burj Alzain went 1:26.60.