Horse racing was searching for a good and heartwarming story after Jeff Mullins, who trains likely Kentucky Derby favorite I Want Revenge, was caught by New York racing officials giving a horse cough medicine. The search ended in Lexington as a man with just one horse, General Quarters, in his barn captured the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
Tom McCarthy, a 75-year-old retired high school principal, acquired General Quarters for just $20,000 out of race at Churchill Downs last May. After a very ordinary 2008, the gray colt gave his owner/trainer the ultimate lottery ticket in 2009 - winning two of four starts including two major Kentucky Derby prep races.
And, oh by the way, the horse was earned $641,375 in his career. Not bad.
The racing world was introduced earlier this year to McCarthy when he won the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa on Valentine's Day. Now McCarthy and his one horse will take center stage in Louisville as one of the major contenders for the Run for the Roses.
The Blue Grass served another important purpose - eliminating some of the Derby pretenders. Looks like only three horses will move on to Louisville: General Quarters, Hold Me Back and Terrain. The big question mark is European import Mafaaz. He ran 8th but the owner and trainer were non-committal as to his next race. (Mafaaz has a guaranteed spot in the Derby as he won the Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes in England last month.)
The Arkansas Derby proved to be a weak race as Old Fashioned, once on top of many Derby contender lists, couldn't hold off Papa Clem. The loss marked the second straight defeat for Old Fashioned after being rattling off four straights wins to begin his career.
The interesting side note to Papa Clem beat I Want Revenge in February at Santa Anita. Papa Clem is the second high profile Southern California based horse to make a successful transition from the artificial "pro ride" surface to conventional dirt.
Only one more prep race to go - The Coolmore Lexington next Saturday at Keeneland. A full field is expected headed by Derby contender Square Eddie.