Whether it stems from growing up in Norwich, he didn’t say. But Thomas McCarthy doesn’t mind a tough neighborhood.

Whether it stems from growing up in Norwich, he didn’t say. But Thomas McCarthy doesn’t mind a tough neighborhood.

Wednesday’s post position draws for the 135th Kentucky Derby placed McCarthy’s General Quarters at No. 12 in the field of 20. Directly to the 3-year-old colt’s right, at No. 13, is 3-to-1 favorite I Want Revenge. The $2 million race’s two second choices, Dunkirk and Pioneerof The Nile (both 4-to-1), are No. 15 and 16, respectively.

“It’s great. That’s just what we wanted,” McCarthy said by telephone from Louisville’s Churchill Downs, site of the 11⁄4-mile Derby. “We wanted between 8 and 12, and we got it.”

General Quarters, trained and owned by McCarthy, was installed at 20-to-1 morning-line win odds.

The 1952 NFA graduate said he would be mapping strategy with jockey Julien Leparoux today and Friday.

“I think we’re spot-on,” McCarthy said.

General Quarters’ victory in the April 11 Blue Grass Stakes qualified the colt for the Derby and turned McCarthy into a national celebrity. The story of a 75-year-old cancer survivor with a one-horse stable competing in his first Derby after 50 years in the business has proved irresistible to reporters.

“He’s all over the place,” Nancy Green, McCarthy’s sister who lives in Groton Long Point, said of her brother’s sudden fame. “I never thought something like this could happen for him after all these years.”

Green, a 1955 NFA grad, will be at McCarthy’s side Saturday. Another sibling, Patrick McCarthy of Texas, is also slated to attend. Thomas McCarthy’s wife, Pat, and their five children will be trackside as well.

McCarthy’s Cinderella tale is one of many in the most emotion-packed Derby in decades.

Dunkirk’s jockey, Edgar Prado, was immortalized in a statute unveiled this week at Churchill Downs that honors the late Barbaro. Prado rode Barbaro to victory in the 2006 Derby but the horse suffered a tragic breakdown in the Preakness Stakes two weeks later.

The horse’s heroic struggle for survival was recounted by Prado in a 2008 book called “My Guy Barbaro.”

Dunkirk, runner-up in the Florida Derby, is trained  by Todd Pletcher. Although one of the country’s most successful trainers of recent years, Pletcher is trying to break an 0-for-21 streak in the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher has three horses in this year’s race.

Joe Talamo, riding in his first Derby aboard I Want Revenge, has promised to donate $25,000 to Children’s Hospital of New Orleans if he wins because of the hospital’s policy of treating people regardless of their ability to pay. Jeff Mullins, trainer of Wood Memorial-winner I Want Revenge, is looking for his first Derby win.

Trainer Larry Jones and jockey Gabriel Saez got filly Eight Belles into last year’s Derby, where she finished second but suffered fatal injuries and had to be euthanized on the track. Jones and Saez are back this year with Friesan Fire, running at 5-to-1 from post No. 6.  

Pioneerof The Nile trainer Bob Baffert, named to the Hall of Fame last week, has narrowly missed winning the Triple Crown four times. Baffert has enlisted Garrett Gomez, the nation’s leading jockey the past two years, to get him the Derby-Preakness-Belmont Stakes trifecta that hasn’t been won since 1978.

The rivalry between General Quarters and Musket Man also looms large. The two dueled in several races at Florida’s Tampa Bay Downs this year. Musket Man, breaking from post No. 2 Saturday, will be ridden by Eibar Coa, who piloted General Quarters to victory in the Blue Grass.

After Coa opted to stay on Musket Man, winner of five of six including the April 4 Illinois Derby, McCarthy picked Leparoux. The French-born Leparoux, looking for his first Derby win after two previous tries, is on his way to becoming “one of the all-time greats,” McCarthy said.

Leparoux, 25, is the country’s third-leading jockey with $5.3 million in earnings, winning 18 percent of his races and finishing “in the money” (first, second, or third) at a 45 percent clip.

Leparoux has yet to ride General Quarters, winner of three of 11 races, but that doesn’t bother the trainer.

“We have everything we need to win,” McCarthy said.

Norwich Bulletin