01/20/2010 1:00AM

McCarthy nearly a one-man-band with General Quarters


If you want to have a word with Tom McCarthy after General Quarters does his daily morning training, you can wait around the barn for a while, or you can walk. Walk alongside the 76-year-old McCarthy as he himself cools out General Quarters. The pace around and around barn 35 at Fair Grounds is quick, and sometimes there is a question of whether man is leading horse, or horse leading man.

"If I had a pair of roller skates he could just pull me around here," McCarthy said Wednesday morning, after General Quarters had been out to gallop 1 1/4 miles.

McCarthy, a retired schoolteacher, became a media flash-point at the 2009 Kentucky Derby after General Quarters, a horse he claimed for $20,000 out of his career debut, won the Blue Grass Stakes and went into the Derby as a 10-1 shot. General Quarters finished 10th there and was ninth in the Preakness before undergoing surgery to remove a chip from his knee. McCarthy said that the colt got back into light exercise in August, began jogging in September, started galloping in October, and got back to breezing in November at Churchill Downs. In his comeback race, General Quarters finished an encouraging second in a six-furlong allowance race here Dec. 26, and in Saturday's Louisiana Handicap, it is back to stakes competition and two-turn racing for General Quarters.

There is something less than a media horde at Fair Grounds this year, but McCarthy still occupies the same position that so charmed reporters last spring. General Quarters is the only horse in his stable, and McCarthy still does everything but ride him and take care of veterinary needs. The grooming, feet-picking, hot-walking, and any other care-taking - those fall to the owner.

As for the riding part, McCarthy employs a man named Doug Morley for daily exercise. Morley, McCarthy said, is strong, and strong is what General Quarters needs.

"He's got one gear out there - as fast as he can go."

McCarthy wanted General Quarters to sit back and make one run in his sprint comebacker, but the horse wound up not far off a strong pace. His owner-trainer worried that the demanding trip might sap energy from General Quarters, but General Quarters appears to have energy in reserve. McCarthy had planned to walk him three days after the race, but was forced to take General Quarters to the track on day 3 to keep the horse from hurting himself - or McCarthy.

McCarthy has the New Orleans Handicap in late March as General Quarters's major goal. But this one-man stable is not all about reaching goals.

"I just look forward to getting up and seeing him every day," said McCarthy.

Speedacious recovering from illness

Notably absent from the Tiffany Lass Stakes on Saturday is the Louisiana-bred filly Speedacious, who had been pointed to the race after a smashing victory in the Louisiana Champions Day Lassie on Dec. 12.

Trainer Bret Calhoun said Speedacious had recently developed a temperature, and that he hoped to have her back training in time to make the $100,000 Premier Night Starlet on Feb. 6 at Delta Downs,