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Quality Road - Breeders' Cup Contender

     

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Quality Road Hat

Quality Road

 
 

Pedigree: Elusive Quality - Kobla (Strawberry Road -AUS)

Owner: Edward P. Evans

Trainer: James A. Jerkens

 

Side: Edward P Evans Silks

Back: Spring Hill Farm Casanova, VA

Front     

$19.95

 

QUALITY ROAD -

Quality Road returned to racing in fine form Aug. 3 by smashing a track record in the six and half-furlong Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga Race Course. He stopped the timer in 1:13.45.

The final time caught some by surprise. Even during the simulcast feed, track announcer John Imbriale said "Ladies and gentlemen, we know Quality Road is a particularly fast 3-year-old, but I don’t think those times on the board are correct, but we’ll check it out." After a hand-timing and then another timing of the replay off the monitor, the record stood, breaking a 30-year-old mark of 1:14 2/5 set by Topsider on Aug. 1, 1979.

The son of Elusive Quality , out of Kobla (by Strawberry Road), was making his first start since winning the Blackberry presents the 58th running of the Florida Derby (gr. I) back in March. The bay colt was an early favorite for the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) while in the barn of trainer Jimmy Jerkens. Quality Road developed a pair of quarter crack in his right front foot just before the race and did not compete. He returned to the work tab June 8, breezing three furlongs in 38.83, and was transferred from Jerkens to Todd Pletcher the following week.

The favorite at 3-4, Quality Road stumbled slightly at the start and was quickly settled into fourth place by jockey John Velazquez. The lead was taken by Everyday Heros under Alan Garcia and Custom for Carlos, being ridden by Julien Leparoux, who battled head-to-head down the stretch in a :22.45 opening quarter and a half in :44.95. Custom for Carlos had just taken a slight lead entering the turn when Quality Road began gaining on the frontrunners. Midway through the turn Quality Road took the lead then swung out four wide at the top of the stretch. Second-choice in the betting Capt. Candyman Can was right at Quality Road's tail coming out of the turn and was steered to the inside of Quality Road by rider Javier Castellano just past the quarter pole. Castellano and Capt. Candyman got up to Quality Road’s left shoulder but couldn’t get past him. Quality Road drew away to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Capt. Candyman Can.

Quality Road, a Virginia-bred owned by his breeder Edward Evans, ran six furlongs in 1:07.22.

"Any time you have a horse with this type of potential, you want him to run well," Pletcher said. "You want him to run as good as he did for Jimmy. He looked like he stumbled a little at the start…but he ran as well as we wanted him to today."

Capt. Candyman Can finished four lengths ahead of third-place finisher Captain Cherokee, who left the gate at 31-1. Quality Road paid $3.50 to win, while Capt. Candyman Can paid $3.90 and $3.20. Captain Cherokee paid $5.40 to show. The $2 exacta paid $11.40, while the $2 trifecta paid $115.50.

Winner of the Florida Derby

The first six furlongs were mere posturing. Once Quality Road and Dunkirk were side by side, that's when the Florida Derby really began.

That's also when Quality Road announced himself as a serious Kentucky Derby contender.

Pulling away in the stretch, Quality Road held off previously unbeaten Dunkirk on Saturday to win the Grade 1 race at Gulfstream Park, giving the colt his second graded stakes win in as many starts.

Next up: The Run for the Roses, where Quality Road will surely be one of the top choices at Churchill Downs on May 2.

"It's a lot of pressure," said trainer Jimmy Jerkens, who's taking a horse from his barn into racing's most famed race for the first time. "But you know, it's good to be in that position."

Sure beats the alternative.

Quality Road paid $4.40, $2.40 and $2.10, and finished in a track-record 1:47.72 over nine furlongs. Dunkirk, who needed a win to cinch a spot in the Kentucky Derby field, was second by nearly two lengths and paid $2.40 and $2.10. Theregoesjojo was third, paying $2.10.

Quality Road settled in near the lead, as Dunkirk loomed about seven lengths back. With about three furlongs remaining, jockey Garrett Gomez gave Dunkirk the signal to go - and got an immediate response, as his horse made a sweeping move and got to the front.

Whether Dunkirk ever actually took the lead around the second turn, no one was certain. Jerkens said he did. His jockey, John Velazquez, said he didn't.

Ultimately, it didn't matter. By the end, there was no question who was leading.

"I've got to give it to my horse," said Velazquez, who turned down a chance to run a $6 million race in Dubai on Saturday so he could stay with Quality Road, who's now won three of his four career starts. "As soon as I asked him, he went for me, he responded and he went away. Definitely a great feeling."