Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Quality Road: Look out Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta

Posted by Brian Appleton on February 10, 2010

The weekend of racing is well over and everyone has had a chance to digest all the performances. A major Kentucky Derby prep race was cancelled along with a slew of graded stakes at Santa Anita race track due to drainage problems, delaying the highly anticipated showdown between American Lion and Tiz Chrome. The Whirlaway Stakes favorite ran amuck before the race was half over allowing another challenger to form Derby dreams. A well known four year old returned from a long injury-layoff to post an encouraging victory. Take the Points was robbed of his victory in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr.1) when he was disqualified. Plus Quality Road ran a race for the ages and showed that Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will not be alone in vying for Horse of the Year honors this time around.

The word handicap indicates that horses in the field are given different amounts of weight in hopes of equaling the ability of all runners, making it as fair a chance for all as is humanly possible. In the Donn Handicap (gr.1) it was not possible, if Quality Road was under any kind of handicap in the Donn Handicap there was certainly no indication. After chasing front running Past the Point in a close second, Quality Road was asked by jockey John Velasquez to take the lead rounding the far turn and the talented four year old responded in rousing fashion. Flying into the homestretch Quality Road held a five length lead and kept going from there, seven lengths, then ten. In the blink of an eye he had crossed the wire 12 ¾ lengths ahead of the field, ears pricked, John Velasquez sitting cool. All it took was a few taps of the whip to keep Quality Road focused, mild urging down the stretch, and the son of Elusive Quality smashed the track record he set last year, won by the largest margin in the 52 year history of the Donn and earned an impressive 121 Beyer speed figure. The future looks brighter than ever for Quality Road. His talents seem endless; he is endowed with speed, strength and stamina. There may just be

Quality Road

two giants for Rachel Alexandra to slay this year in order to defend her Horse of the Year title: Zenyatta and Quality Road. I think Quality Road is out to do everything he can to make 2010 the “Year of the Colt”, and anyone who saw the Donn would be hard pressed to find a chink in this knight’s armor. According to trainer Todd Pletcher the Met Mile in May at Belmont Park is the next race on Quality Road’s radar. Am I the only one that thinks this is a poor choice?

Musket Man is back and he looks as good as ever, perhaps even better. According to owner Eric Fein Musket Man was only about 70% cranked for his return to the races at Tampa Bay Downs. After watching the race I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I can’t wait to see 100%. The four year old son of Yonaguska rallied five-wide around the final turn, seized the lead in the stretch and fought tooth and nail the entire way to hold off Guam Typhoon for the Super Stakes victory. His next

Musket Man

start will either come at Gulfstream, Fair Grounds or Oaklawn Park. It was great to see Musket Man looking so strong after being away from the races since the Preakness Stakes last year, his next start will probably put him right back in the middle of graded stakes company and he will have his chance to prove that he also has become a major player in the older horse division.

Eightyfiveinafifty created a scare for trainer Gary Contessa along with his connections and a slew of fans when he bolted on the first turn of the Whirlaway Stakes, broke through the outer railing, unseated his jockey, jumped a fence, broke his bit and was finally caught by a security guard. The reason for his actions are still unclear, but after being given stitches for a small cut on his leg the colt will be back to his normal routine within a week. No return race has yet been determined. Hopefully things will improve in his next start; I think this horse is the real deal.

The Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr.1) was billed as three horse race between Court Vision, Le Grand Cru and Take the Points. Take the Points won by 1 ½ lengths before being disqualified to fifth for veering-in during the stretch run and

Take the Points

causing another horse to stumble. Court Vision got up for second and was awarded the win after Take the Points disqualification. In my opinion the result would have been the same had Take the Points not lugged in. He was drawing off at the wire while Court Vision seemed to lack his usual spark in his closing kick. Le Grand Cru finished fourth, a neck behind Never On Sunday who finished a neck behind Court Vision.

Overall a great weekend of racing with us fans being treated to some great performances.  On a slightly more negative note, Summer Bird was removed from the care of Tim Ice who so brilliantly handled the colts career in 2009. Owners  K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman are also removing 24 other horses from Ice’s stable and transferring them to at least 5 other trainers. K.K. Jayaraman said he thinks that there has been a failing in communication between him and Ice. “I’m just another trainer in a long line he’s hired and fired,” Ice said.

Summer Bird

After training Summer Bird to an historical three year old campaign that included wins in the Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup and being named champion three year old colt, Tim Ice is being dumped for trainer Tim Ritchey. I have nothing against Tim Ritchey who handled Afleet Alex’s campaign wonderfully, but why mess with a good thing?

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2 Responses to “Quality Road: Look out Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta”

  1. Laura W said

    You’ll be proud of me Brian… I voted on your blog! 🙂 It looks GREAT- nice writing!!!!
    L~

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