02/14/2009 12:00AM

13-1 shot General Quarters wins Sam Davis


General Quarters, a former claimer, now finds himself on the list of potential Kentucky Derby prospects after registering a convincing 3 1/2-length victory over fellow longshot Sumo in Saturday's Grade 3, $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

General Quarters was claimed for $20,000 by owner Thomas McCarthy out of his career debut last May at Churchill Downs. McCarthy trained the horse in Kentucky before sending him to Mark Miller this winter at Tampa Bay Downs. General Quarters finished second behind Musket Man in the Pasco Stakes in his 3-year-old debut.

A.P. Cardinal, who along with 9-5 favorite Free Country and Atomic Rain made the trip up from south Florida for the race, set the early pace with General Quarters saving ground and in close attendance from the outset. General Quarters, with jockey James Lopez aboard, moved to the front along the inside leaving the quarter pole then drew off with authority through the final furlong.

Sumo, a 33-1 outsider, and Musket Man were well placed but neither could match strides with the winner through the stretch. Musket Man finished three lengths behind Sumo in third.

Free Country, the 3-2 favorite, saved ground much of the way but never got untracked and finished a non-threatening fourth. A.P. Cardinal fell back steadily once relinquishing the lead and was fifth while Atomic Rain flattened out badly after making a mild run on the final turn, finishing seventh in a field of 11 3-year-olds. General Quarters set a stakes record by covering the distance in 1:43.54 over a fast track. He paid $29.

"I'm just real proud of him," said Miller. "He proved a lot today. I'm looking at the Tampa Bay Derby as long as everything's okay."

In fact, McCarthy - who now serves as General Quarter's groom - said he's already looking beyond the Tampa Bay Derby.

"The next step will possibly be the Tampa Bay Derby, then the Blue Grass, and then to the Derby."

The Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby will be run on March 14.