06/02/2009 11:00PM

General Quarters resting after surgery

Benoit & Associates
Pure Clan, unraced since the Breeders' Cup, will return in Saturday's Mint Julep.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It was a Wednesday morning before the Belmont Stakes, and Tom McCarthy, working solo, was excusing himself to empty a wheelbarrow full of soiled straw into a muck pit outside his Churchill Downs shed row.

"Yeah, I'd like to be up there at Belmont Park," said McCarthy. "But things just didn't work out like we'd hoped."

The Wednesday post-position draws before the first two legs of the Triple Crown were held with McCarthy as prominent as almost anyone, if only because of the compelling story line he brought to the Triple Crown table. As the owner and trainer of a one-horse stable, the 75-year-old retired high school principal was a feel-good story leading into the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Unfortunately for McCarthy and his many fans, General Quarters did not run nearly as well in either race as he did in winning the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in April.

Come to find out, General Quarters may have had a pretty good excuse. The colt recently underwent surgery to have a chip removed from his right knee, and now he is getting several months' stall rest at Churchill. McCarthy reported that Dr. Larry Bramlage performed the surgery May 27 at the Rood and Riddle equine clinic in Lexington.

"I think the colt probably injured himself in the Derby, although obviously I didn't know that coming into the Preakness," said McCarthy. "He didn't come back quite as well as I'd hoped from the Derby, although we went ahead and ran him in Maryland. He had trained so well going into the Derby, maybe I was just hoping he could redeem himself."

General Quarters, a gray colt by Sky Mesa, had traffic problems when he ran 10th in the Derby, then ninth in the Preakness.

"I just wish people could have seen him when he was 100 percent,"said McCarthy. "Now that he's had this surgery, I'll go on and give him plenty of time. He was in steady training for about a year. Hopefully I'll have him back ready to run early next year."

Filling Leparoux's seats

With Julien Leparoux at Belmont on Saturday, the trainers of the two leading contenders in the feature race at Churchill, the Mint Julep Handicap, went searching for new jockeys, since Leparoux has been the primary rider for both.

Pure Clan, the 122-pound highweight for trainer Bob Holthus, will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, while Acoma, 120, will have Corey Lanerie aboard for David Carroll.

The Mint Julep came up far tougher than its Grade 3 ranking and $100,000 purse would suggest. Pure Clan won the Grade 1 American Oaks last summer, while Acoma, the beaten 2-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom in her last start, is a four-time graded winner.

Pure Clan will be making her first start since finishing 10th and last in the Oct. 24 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. In late January, her breeder and original owner, Lewis Lakin, announced he had bought back the majority interest that he sold the IEAH syndicate in February 2008. Lakin again is the sole owner.

Seven fillies and mares were entered Wednesday for the Mint Julep, a 1 1/16-mile turf race that anchors the Saturday card. The Belmont Stakes simulcast will be shown after the live program is run in its entirety.

Arson Squad to challenge Einstein

Garrett Gomez, the Eclipse Award-winning jockey the last two years, will be among the out-of-town riders active at Churchill next Saturday, June 13, for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap and the four supporting stakes.

Gomez will ride Arson Squad for trainer Rick Dutrow in the $600,000 Foster, for which Einstein will be a solid favorite. Leparoux, the leading rider at the spring meet, has the mount on Einstein.

With just 20 horses nominated, the other confirmed starters for the 1 1/8-mile Foster are Macho Again, Bullsbay, and Researcher. Weight assignments will be released Saturday.

Besides the five stakes, the day also will feature the presentation of engraved trophies to the winning connections of the 2009 Kentucky Derby and Oaks.

Vance nearing milestone victory

The next winner for David Vance at Churchill will make him the 11th trainer to win 300 races at this track. Lynn Whiting became the 10th when Action Seeker won here May 29.

Vance, who has been partially immobilized from injuries suffered in a December 2007 automobile accident, had one scheduled starter here Thursday and two Friday.