September 3, 2010

Quality Road Over Troubled Waters

Quality Road remains an enigma. Truly a horse that demands our attention, a new chapter in his saga will unfold tomorrow afternoon in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. Even away from the daily grind, I find my thoughts not drifting too far away from the talented colt.

On vacation on the shores of Lake Superior, I find peace in looking out on the majestic beast of a lake. Big and beautiful, it is also powerful and unforgiving. I lose myself as my eyes focus on the waves rising up and then crashing down. I wonder about the countless mysteries that must lie beneath the surface. As I ponder the words I use to describe the greatest of all the great lakes, I can’t help but to think about the Lake Superior of race horses. I am speaking of Quality Road, and like the lake, he is big and beautiful, and powerful and unforgiving. He is also a horse full of mystery, and much like the waves of Lake Superior, his career seems to rise and fall with each passing moment.

The wave rose with his successful career debut late in his juvenile season. The single race was impressive enough for many to have him on their early Kentucky Derby watch list.
…and then the wave crashing down as Quality Road was easily defeated in his sophomore debut, beaten in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park as the 7-10 favorite.

The wave rose quickly again in his next two starts as he gained revenge on his vanquisher in winning the Fountain of Youth, and then broke a track record in his Florida Derby triumph. The two stakes wins propelled him to be the most talked about horse on the Derby trail.
…and then the wave crashing down as Quality Road was taken out of consideration for the Run for the Roses due to troublesome quarter cracks. The soreness relented, and Quality Road would not return for his new trainer, Todd Pletcher, until August.

The wave rose again with a vengeance, as Quality Road’s long awaited return to the races produced an electrifying performance and another track record in easily taking the Amsterdam Stakes against a solid field. His bandwagon became packed almost immediately as experts called him the best sophomore male in the nation.
…and then that wave crashed down again as the real sophomore champion, Summer Bird, defeated him consecutively in the Travers and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Quality Road‘s star took another hit when his penchant for resisting the starting gate came to a head in the BC Classic causing a frightening situation.

The wave rose one more time as the son of Elusive Quality started his older career with three straight stakes wins, including a tour de force showing in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap that had the speed figure gurus falling over themselves to glorify. The bandwagon was revved up again, and the Horse of the Year talk was aplenty.
…and then the wave came crashing down again. Blame was to blame this time as heavily favored Quality Road could not hold off the improving stretch runner in last month’s Whitney. In the process, Blame snatched the mantle as the best male horse in America from the talented but enigmatic Quality Road.

Tomorrow is the Woodward … look for the fortunes of Quality Road to rise again. Dramamine anyone?


Bill said...

Enjoy the vacation, I'm sure it's well earned-

Quality Road, Super Saver, Mine that Bird, etc. all horses today are trained so lightly that they will rarely string together a years worth of nice performances.

Rachel did as much, but look what it took out of her.

Zenyatta of course is the exception, but her late running style and refusal to run on anything but forgiving synthetics deserve as asterisk in my book.

Will be interesting to see at CD in November if the BC Classic comes up on an off track - I bet she scratches like a dog with fleas.

Ryan said...

Mind changing the title?

I posted something about QR with the same title months ago.

Kimness said...

Yes please - to the Dramamine. I was going to say I was getting a bit sea-sick & laughed out loud when I read the dramamine part.

Great article Brian - I think Quality Road kicks butt in this race.

I've only seen the Great Lakes on Discovery & History channel - Enjoy your vacation.

Brian Zipse said...

Thanks Bill and Kimness, I am and will enjoy my time in God's country. Great minds and all that ... my fault Ryan, I never saw your work ... good flick though.

Anonymous said...

so if history is any guide, Quality Road romps in the Woodward and then his wave comes crashing down in the Classic.

Cindy said...

Great article and enjoy the big waters. I have travelled to Superior a couple of times and it is a wonder. Follow the Inukshuk.

Great name for a racehorse, lol!

LDP said...

Well he's back on the rise. I hope he does well in the Classic now. He can get 10 furlongs, IMO a second to SB, when he was actually fit, shows that. Especially since SB did not come back to beat him by that much.

The Gold Cup is looking interesting. AE, RT, and Blame.