Call me crazy. Tell me I'm grasping at straws. But come over here a minute and listen up. Do you hear it? It's the roar from the 100K strong at Belmont Park where General Quarters is rolling down the long sandy stretch to win the.....
I may be dreaming, but when I was fortunate enough to ask in the Bloodhorse Blog Stable, Why Can't Racing Generate America's Next Great Hero, that over 58 hearty commenters chimed in to agree to disagree that it would take a really special horse to command America's attention and return racing to the mainstream. We had several opportunities in the past few years with feel-good stories of Smarty and Funny and Alex, but there's a horse in the gate on Saturday that could really turn the tides and here's why:
1. The American Dream. Tom McCarthy is living it at age 75. The former school principal has one horse in his stable. One. Count him. Uno. Gives new meaning to one-trick pony.
2. Coolest initials. GQ baby. If he wins the derby, he'll be on the cover of GQ and SI. Stylin' with the cool kids in Gentlemen's Quarterly. He's our magazine horse.
3. Buzz factor. His story should be featured as the Bob Costas story, longshot, probably doesn't have a chance in hell horse, during the pre-race festivities. A Derby win, makes him a household name and generates more interest for the Preakness and Triple crown, with an intriguing story line that even your mom can love.
4. Rags to Riches story. He was claimed for $20K at Churchill Downs and now he's in the most famous race in the world at, ahem, Churchill Downs. Who won't love that story?
5. Reversal of Fortune. His sire, Sky Mesa scratched out of the 2003 Derby due to a bone bruise. His grandsire, Pulpit finished 4th in the 1997 Derby after having issues with a bone chip during the race. Even his great-grandsire, AP Indy, scratched the morning of the 1992 Derby. If GQ gets to the gate, half the battle has been fought. Who wouldn't want him to overcome those misfortunes running deep in his bloodlines?
6. Jockey En Fuego. Julien Leparoux is on fire. He's been eating them up all year long and he's a likable bloke, he can only add value to our potential new hero.
GQ had a horrendous trip in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3, 81 beyer), after winning the Sam F. Davis (G3) with a 102 Beyer. Major traffic troubles, steadied. He bounced back to win the Blue Grass (G1) on the poly at Keeneland three weeks ago earning a 95 (not a bad polybeyer - new word). His final three furlongs in the Blue Grass went at a blazing 35.85, the fastest of any prep race and his final 1/8 was the fourth best (11.94 secs). I'm not making a case for him to win, you can do that on your own.
I think he could be the horse that take racing to the next level. Just sayin'.