Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Quality Road: Hope for the Older Horse Division of 2010

Posted by Brian Appleton on January 4, 2010

Is it just me, or does it seem like we could be in for one of the most spectacular years for older horses in generations? The returns of Rachel Alexandra, Mine that Bird, Quality Road, and Summer Bird (health permitting) all herald good things for the fans and horse racing as a whole. When was the last time all three winners of the Triple Crown races returned the following year to slug it out for top honors yet again? Not to mention the returns of big name horses like Gio Ponti, who rose to new heights of

Quality Road wins the Hal's Hope Stakes

prominence in 2009, and Life Is Sweet, who is now completely free of Zenyatta and, therefore, given a clear shot at the Older Female Division title for the first time. Plus I still hold out hope that Einstein could be returned for one more racing campaign. Who doesn’t like Einstein? If not for his poor showing in the Classic in November and losing the Clark by less than a length he would probably be in a dead-lock with Gio Ponti for Older Male championship honors. If there was a television sitcom/show made around this horse, it would probably be called Everybody Loves Einstein. Rail Trip is also coming back for a greater shot at glory in 2010 after a good, but somewhat short, 2009 season that ended with his 3rd place showing in the Pacific Classic.

After the Breeders’ Cup is over and most of the major horses are either put away for the year or retired, it’s hard to wait for weeks and weeks on end to watch some real “quality” racing. Watching Quality Road winning the Hal’s Hope Stakes at Gulfstream was a real “pick me up”. He kicked the year off with an exciting and thoroughly dominating victory, making an emphatic statement in the older horse ranks. If he can keep things going this way for the rest of the year, his fellow four year olds of “yester-year” will have to work very hard to slow him down.

Quality Road wins the Hal's Hope Stakes

Showing no ill effects from his traumatic Breeders’ Cup Classic gate incident, Quality Road loaded into #2 like an angel for the Hal’s Hope and waited patiently while the remainder of the field was loaded. The gates sprung and you could practically say the race was over from there. Flying to the lead, Quality Road took firm control of the pace, posting a sluggish :25.15 for the first quarter-mile. Looking the confident part of a winner, he continued to lead the field down the backstretch and around the far turn, with You and I Forever, Spin Master and Harlem Rocker right there in good striking position. Around the last turn Quality Road floated a bit wide, allowing You and I Forever to slip through on the inside. For a moment it appeared that he might be in trouble, almost conceding the lead to You and I Forever for a fraction of a second. But Jockey John Velazquez roused his mount with a vigorous shake of the reins and the contest was over. Quality Road pulled away from You and I Forever as quickly as the other had closed the gap coming off the turn, and opened up as he drove for the wire. He coasted home a widening 2 ¾ lengths with no assistance from the whip, perfectly content to lope home the easy winner. The Donn Handicap (gr.1) at Gulfstream on February 6th is now the son of Elusive Quality’s next target according to trainer Todd Pletcher. Only four more weeks and we get to see this big guy in action yet again. After a brilliant but troubled 3 year old campaign, Quality Road now appears ready to seize the moment and leave his problems behind.

As a three year old, Quality Road won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr.2) and Florida Derby (gr.1) at Gulfstream in highly impressive fashion, making him the probable favorite for the Kentucky Derby. He unfortunately had to be withdrawn from the Derby a few days before it was to be run due to foot problems. He was put away for rest and recovery until the summer. He returned in the Amsterdam Stakes (gr.2) at Saratoga in August, winning a visually impressive race and smashing the track record for six and half furlongs. His final time of 1:13.45 was so fast it was at first believed to be a malfunction of the timer. Track announcer John Imbriale called out: “Ladies

Summer Bird wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup

and Gentlemen, we know that 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.” The previous time of 1:14 2/5 was set 30 years previous by Topsider in 1979. After his overwhelming return, Quality Road next placed third to Summer Bird in the Travers Stakes and was defeated a scant length by Summer Bird in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont.

Few missed his antics in the starting gate in early November at Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and he was subsequently given regular gate schooling and prepared for an early return to the races in 2010. After the way he won the Hal’s Hope, you have to wonder how he would have fared in the Breeders’ Cup Classic if things had gone differently. He has never raced on synthetics before, but he also likes a dry track better than the wet ones he got in the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Classic was a good consistency. If he makes it to the Breeders’ Cup this year, I will eagerly anticipate his performance over a dirt track with hopefully clear skies and his well-known fellow 2009 3-year old graduates hard on his heels.

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8 Responses to “Quality Road: Hope for the Older Horse Division of 2010”

  1. For the first time in years, I am truly excited about the handicap division because of all the horses you mentioned and much more. Blame, Vineyard Haven, and the returns of The Pamplemousse, I Want Revenge, and Musket Man, just to name a few. 2010 promises to be outstanding! Another great piece Brian, I always enjoy reading your work.

    • Thanks, always encouraging to know when someone likes what you’re writing.
      Blame looks like he could be a quickly improving horse, can’t wait to see what he does this year. It would be great to see I Want Revenge come back with the same old kick he showed before and Musket Man was really growing on me after Derby, he seemed almost like a milder version of Hard Spun last year on the Triple Crown trail.

  2. Einstein is scheduled to have one “swan song” race before retirement. That could happen at Gulfstream. His future will be determined after that. But he’s had a great run. A true multi-surface star. His place in history is secure.

    Dunkirk retired today. He was one of the big names that I was looking for in 2010. But it wasn’t meant to be. Got to enjoy them while they last. 😉

    • I hope he (Einstein) makes a good show of it, too good to be retired! (: I agree, he has certainly gained a place in history.
      One of the horses I am hoping to see return to the races this year is Denis Of Cork, I loved him during the 2008 Triple Crown, but he has yet to make his comeback. Last I knew he was still being brought back.
      Dunkirk’s retirement was a little disappointing to me too; it’s a shame when horses as talented as him don’t get to reach their full potential.

  3. Kelley A. said

    Oh, Rachel Alexandra is coming back!?! Yay!!! 🙂

  4. BA,

    Sorry so long getting back re: Road to the Roses…computer issues. Last year the registration began Feb. 9 so expect to see the site updated in a few weeks. Here’s the link: http://www.roadtotheroses.com/

    Personally, I loved QR…before he was switched out of Jimmy Jerkens’ stable. The colt has always fired off the layoff, so his big test is coming in the Donn H. and beyond. Unfortunately, it seems his owner has too much say in where/when to run him. Mr. Evans should take a cue from Prince Khalid Abdullah…hire the best trainer and let him/her put the horse where he/she belongs like Bobby Frankel did with Abdullah’s Juddmonte runners.

    BZipse,
    Don’t hold your breath w/ returns of THE PAMPLEMOUSSE, I WANT REVENGE, and MUSKET MAN. The first two don’t have any recorded works yet and MM has had gaps in training since going back on the tab 10/31/09…he hasn’t worked since 12/24/09. All isn’t real well with him.
    As for VINEYARD HAVEN, do you think he’ll be effective routing? I’m really looking forward to BLAME out of last year’s 3y.o.’s…he has the breeding to be better at 4 than he was at 3.

    T_K_S,
    I think if I owned EINSTEIN, I’d take a shot at the Dubai World Cup for $10 million before he heads off to create little geniuses.

    Did anyone notice the work tab at Hollywood Park? There’s a pretty decent 6-year-old mare working 1/2 mile every 2-3 weeks.

    • Thanks for getting back to me, my computer crashed a couple of weeks ago, so I understand what a wrench they can throw!
      I’m very curious to see how Quality Road runs in the Donn, I think he’ll do fine personally. He’ll have my full support that’s for sure.

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