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General Quarters Dodges Bullet

It was a scary Sunday for owner-trainer Tom McCarthy, but by Friday morning the alarm bells for General Quarters fell silent once again.

Last Sunday morning, McCarthy was leading his one-horse stable consisting of last year’s Grade I Blue Grass winner General Quarters off the racecourse after a routine gallop, and his handsome gray colt was feeling so good he accidentally rapped himself on his left front with his right hind – an unfortunate occurrence that led to almost immediate dramatic swelling just above the fetlock. Fortunately, the tendon in that area was not in the line of fire.

McCarthy, an old-school horseman and longtime Louisville, Kentucky, resident (think 11 herbs and spices), packed one of his old-school compounds to the affected area immediately and by Monday morning things looked a lot better for General Quarters’ participation in the upcoming Grade II New Orleans Handicap on March 27.

“I couldn’t believe how much the swelling had gone down when I walked in his stall Monday morning,” said McCarthy. “It was almost completely gone, so I that’s the way I’ve continued to treat it. Before that happened, I would have galloped him on Monday and Tuesday and worked him five-eighths Wednesday, but obviously we’ve missed taking him to the track for a few days.

“He went fine when he went to the track this morning (Friday),” said McCarthy, “and I’ll take him to the track again tomorrow (Saturday). If all goes well, we’ll breeze him on Sunday but we’ll have to make it a half-mile instead of five-eighths. It’s not quite the schedule I wanted but it’s as close as I can make it.

“However, I’ve been around this game long enough to know that sometimes these things work out for the best,” McCarthy said. “Maybe this slight change of plans is just what he (General Quarters) needs to be at his best in the big race next week. He certainly seems to be feeling like he’s at the top of his game right now. Maybe those couple of days not going to the track was just what he needed.

“One other thing I can tell you,” concluded McCarthy, as he stepped back to admire his charge while stroking the colt’s withers. “This is by far the best looking horse I’ve ever had.”

Following General Quarters’ win in the 2009 Blue Grass, he suffered a nightmarish trip when far back in the Kentucky Derby, was operated on for a chip after another dull performance in the Preakness and unraced for six months before returning to run second by a half-length in his first start back at Fair Grounds Dec. 26.

General Quarters came back to run second behind last year’s Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire in the Louisiana Handicap Jan. 23, and was second by a neck to long shot Stonehouse in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap Feb. 20 as the final designed local prep for the New Orleans Handicap.

General Quarters is assigned the second high weight at 120 pounds for the New Orleans Handicap in the list of weights published Friday.

Awesome Gem Shoulders Top Impost of 121 pounds for New Orleans Handicap
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Awesome Gem, a West Coast-based invader for the New Orleans Handicap, will shoulder the top impost of 121 pounds in the main event for older horses at the Crescent City oval that will be contested at nine furlongs on Louisiana Derby Day March 27.

Trained by Craig Dollase, Awesome Gem twice successfully shipped outside California last year, taking the Grade III Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs in the Seattle, Washington, area last Aug. 16, and then journeying to Chicago, Illinois, to take down winning honors in the Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup Oct. 3. Most recently, the 7-year-old son of Awesome Again ran eighth on the Santa Anita grass in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 6 but was beaten less than four lengths for all of it.

Others expected for the New Orleans Handicap, with their respective weight assignments, include Vinery Stable and Fox Hill Farms’ Friesan Fire (119); Virginia Tarra’s Giant Oak (119); Overbrook Farm’s Battle Plan (117); Brittlyn Stable’s Star Guitar (117); Richard Rudolph and Michael Vranich’s Stonehouse (117); WinStar Farm’s Hold Me Back (116); Team Valor International’s Stones River (115); and Millennium Farms and James Covello’s Tone It Down (113).

Rachel Alexandra ‘Looks Terrific’ Galloping 12 Furlongs Friday Morning
Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra “looked terrific” as she galloped a mile and a half Friday morning, according to Fair Grounds clocker Billy Pettingill.

“She came out on the track about 6:30 a.m.,” Pettingill said while updating the filly’s status since her narrow defeat in last weekend’s $200,000 New Orleans Ladies here. “She went about a mile and a half with Dominic Terry aboard as always. She came out with wearing that same ‘Figure 8’ equipment. Steve (Asmussen, Eclipse Award-winning trainer) brought her out himself today. Scott (Blasi, assistant trainer) was at Oaklawn.”

After walking a couple of days immediately after the New Orleans Ladies, Rachel Alexandra jogged for a couple of days before Friday’s more serious outing.