11/03/2010 9:33PM

Quality Road upgrade

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Quality Road sometimes is a victim of defensive strategy.

Brilliant when he uses his speed, Quality Road is ordinary when he leaves the gun in his holster.

Quality Road was odds-on in the Whitney in August, but slowed the pace to an extreme crawl and was outrun late by Blame.

Quality Road was a contender in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last October, but backed up the pace and was outrun late by Summer Bird. Quality Road’s trainer Todd Pletcher knows the remedy.

“It kind of defies logic a little bit … he’d be better off going faster and make the horses that are chasing him go a little faster early on,” Pletcher said in an interview on TVG.

When he goes fast early, the horses chasing him expend energy keeping up. When Quality Road goes slow, the fresh closers stay in contention and are fresh for the pounce.

Quality Road is a different, better animal when he puts his speed to use. He pressed a 1:09-and-change in the Donn in February, and won by double digits with a 121 Beyer Figure.

Quality Road smoked the opening half in 45-and-change in the Met Mile in May, winning the country’s most prestigious one-turn race and winning it easily.

So what about the Breeders’ Cup Classic? Slow-down tactics that suck along the field will not work. Using that plan, Quality Road has little shot to “out-close” the closers.

Pletcher said “the key to Quality Road is … he needs to spread the race out a little bit.”

Sounds like Quality Road will use his speed Saturday. It sounds like he will not mess around.

Quality Road will go for it. He will draw the gun, use his speed, and at some point try to “create an advantage.”

Quality Road, 8-for-12 and on speed figures the “fastest horse” in the Classic, might not win.

But if he falls short, it will be on his terms.