OLDSMAR — General Quarters finally shed the bridesmaid tag.
Initially passed over by owner Thomas McCarthy at an auction, second in two previous stakes and facing three unbeaten colts, General Quarters looked every bit the bride — groom, more accurately — Saturday, beating 10 rivals in the Grade III $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes in front of a Festival Preview Day record crowd of 6,673 at Tampa Bay Downs.
The 3-year-old grey Sky Mesa colt got a ground-saving trip under jockey James Lopez, assuming the lead from A.P. Cardinal with a quarter-mile remaining. He finished 31/2 lengths in front of Sumo, clocking the 11/16th mile in 1 minute, 43.54 seconds. Musket Man, in third, was the top finisher among the three unbeaten starters, with Free Country fourth and Top Seed sixth.
A.P. Cardinal set the pace with fractions of 23.91 and 47.77 seconds before finishing fifth.
"The trip went great," Lopez said. "They backed it up a bit around the first turn. He settled in, though. The rail opened up, and I waited as long as I could.''
Claimed nine months ago for $20,000 while breaking his maiden, General Quarters ($29) earned $120,000, raising his career bankroll to $167,735. It was his first stakes win, his first victory under McCarthy and the first stakes win in the 32-year career of trainer Mark Miller.
"(McCarthy) looked at him in the sales and turned him down because he's got a little funny way with his right front," Miller said. "He ended up claiming him. Is that not a story?"
In the Grade III $225,000 Endeavour Stakes, Ballymore Lady ($14.80) beat Elusive Lady under Jose Lezcano. The winning time on the 11/16th-mile turf course was 1:42.37. Rock Candy ($10.20) won the $75,000 Suncoast. Ridden by Carlos Montalvo for trainer Michael Zwiesler, she defeated Ameribelle by a neck. The winning time for 1 mile, 40 yards was 1:41.22.
"Having a couple trips over the racetrack definitely helped us," Zwiesler said. "She's progressing and showed her determination."