03/25/2011 2:52PM

General Quarters could return by end of Churchill meet


NEW ORLEANS – The saga of General Quarters and his owner and trainer, former high school principal Tom McCarthy, was one of the feel-good stories of the spring two years ago. General Quarters won the Blue Grass Stakes and ran in the Kentucky Derby. He came back last year to win the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Derby undercard.

General Quarters was injured while training last fall, though, and has been off since. He spent the winter here at Fair Grounds preparing to get back to the races, and on Thursday he had his first three-furlong drill. By Friday morning, he was on a van back to Churchill Downs.

“He’s doing real well,” McCarthy said Friday morning. “I think he’ll be ready to run by the latter part of the Churchill Downs meet.”

McCarthy called the Stephen Foster in June “a possibility” but said he was more concerned with bigger goals later in the year at Churchill Downs.

“He had a hard campaign last year,” McCarthy said. “He ran four times during the winter in New Orleans, then ran at Churchill Downs. I gave him time off at the end of last year because I wanted him fairly fresh this year with the possibility of going to the Breeders’ Cup.”

The Breeders’ Cup returns to Churchill Downs this year Nov. 4-5.

General Quarters was claimed by McCarthy for $20,000. He has since earned more than $1 million.

Hancock a weekend visitor

Seth Hancock struck up a friendship with Billy Donovan when Donovan was an assistant coach years ago for the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team. Donovan is now the head coach at the University of Florida, and with the Gators playing in the Southeast Regional here Thursday night, Hancock decided to come down for the game before settling in for an important day of racing Saturday at Fair Grounds.

“I was sitting right next to his wife,” Hancock said Friday morning outside the barn of his trainer, Al Stall Jr.

Hancock’s Claiborne Farm, along with partner Adele Dilschneider, was set to run Left in the Louisiana Derby on Saturday. They also had the highly regarded Bind in an allowance race and the filly Might in the 12th race.

Might is a full sister to Blame, who won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and was voted the Eclipse Award-winning older horse. Blame is at stud at Claiborne, and Hancock said he could not be doing any better.

“He loves his job,” Hancock said. “He’s [impregnating] his mares. It’s all good. He covers his mares the first time he goes out. He’s fertile. He’s a pleasure to be around. He got a great reception. He’s got a full book. He’s really doing well.”

Blame won nine times in 13 starts during his career, and last year he scored victories over Quality Road in the Whitney and the previously unbeaten Zenyatta in the Classic.

“I admit I’m biased, but I really think he’s one of the most underappreciated good horses we’ve seen in recent years,” Hancock said. “Al’s not much of a bragger, and his owners aren’t either. But he beat Quality Road, and he was all that, and he beat Zenyatta, and she was all that. He was a really, really good racehorse.”

* Jockey Robby Albarado, injured in a prerace accident here Jan. 2, returned to action Friday and was scheduled to ride the closing weekend at Fair Grounds before returning to Kentucky. Closing day is Sunday.