04/02/2009 11:00PM

Evans comes up with 'Quality' cross

Email

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Spring Hill Farm owner Edward P. Evans used a simple approach when he planned the mating that produced Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby hopeful Quality Road: combine quality speed with quality stamina.

Quality Road is by Elusive Quality, a famed sprinter and miler who set a seven-furlong track record of 1:20.17 at Gulfstream in 1997 and a one-mile world mark of 1:31.63 on Belmont turf in 1998. But he also has latent stamina influences that came to the fore clearly when his son Raven's Pass won the 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic and his son Smarty Jones won the 2004 Kentucky Derby. Quality Road's dam, Kobla, is a full sister to 1997 champion 3-year-old filly Ajina, who comfortably carried her speed to victory from seven furlongs to 1 1/4 miles and won three Grade 1 races beyond a mile.

Kobla wasn't nearly that successful at the races. The Strawberry Road mare was winless in two starts and came to the 1999 Keeneland November sale with just $1,080 in her bankroll. That didn't dissuade Evans - or, apparently, his underbidder - and he bid $1,050,000 to get her.

"The mare was good looking and a sister to a champion," said Evans, 67. "She had the same DNA. You might as well start with the right recipe. The best pedigrees win the best races, generally."

Evans, a son of Pleasant Colony's late breeder Thomas Mellon Evans, is a pedigree scholar whose successes as a breeder include 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam, Grade 1 winners Raging Fever, Gygistar, and Summer Colony, and Irish champion Ministrella.

"In general, we sell half and keep half of our foal crop every year," said Chris Baker, who manages 2,800-acre Spring Hill in Casanova, Va. "We don't make our racing versus selling decisions when we're planning matings. We breed all our mares under the assumption that we're going to race this foal."

Many of Spring Hill's 79 or so broodmares have stamina influences in their pedigrees, a factor that doesn't always produce sale-toppers in a market that has long loved early-developing speedsters. At the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale, Quality Road went unsold at $110,000.

"His immaturity was probably his greatest fault," Baker, 45, recalled. "He's always been a fairly correct colt. He's a little upright in front and behind, and he's a little straight in his hind leg as well, and some of those minor things just made buyers pass on him when they had a lot of other options."

Quality Road's maturity isn't a question anymore. Neither is his speed. The colt earned a 111 Beyer Speed Figure for his Fountain of Youth win and also shares the second highest Beyer among 3-year-olds, the 113 he got for his Feb. 28 Fountain of Youth score.

"We never rushed this horse," Baker said. "I don't know, but he might have come to hand earlier if we'd pushed him, but we didn't want to do that."

The careful start, from mating to training, has given Evans something a lot of buyers now wish they had: a live Derby prospect.

"By injecting speed into the sire side from a stamina-oriented family, it's not a bad way to try to develop a horse with classic potential," Baker said.

Kobla is back in foal to Elusive Quality, Baker reports.

"I don't think there's any question it's the right cross," Evans concluded. "Everything else is luck, I think."

Jackson loses broodmare, stallion

Jess Jackson lost two good horses last month, broodmare Got Koko and stallion Saarland. Both were 10.

Grade 1 winner Got Koko died March 5 due to complications from foaling a Bernardini colt at Jackson's Stonestreet Stable in Lexington. The colt, foaled March 4, "survived and is strong," according to Jackson's spokesman, Kevin McGee.

Got Koko won the Grade 1 La Brea in 2002 and four other graded stakes. She placed in three other graded events, including the Gradeo1 Breeders' Cup Distaff and Gradeo1 Santa Monica Handicap. The Signal Tap mare produced four foals. The oldest is 3-year-old Koko Pop, by A.P. Indy. She also has a 2-year-old A.P. Indy colt and a yearling Ghostzapper colt.

Jackson purchased Got Koko for $1.5 million at the 2004 Keeneland November sale.

Grade 2 winner Saarland, whose 3-year-old daughter Saarlight won the Wide Country Stakes at Laurel on March 7, died just six days later at Jackson's California ranch.

"He was frolicking and playing on a field in front of Jess and some other members of the team when he ran into a feeder, flipped over, and injured his spine," McGee said.

Farm staff called an emergency veterinary response team from the University of California-Davis, but the Unbridled horse could not be saved.

Darby Dan Farm stood Saarland until late January, when it pensioned him due to declining fertility. Jackson, Saarland's majority owner, shipped the horse to California and recently had sent him to surgery to correct an undescended testicle in a longshot bid to restore fertility.

McGee said the testicle had descended after surgery and that farm staff were "in a waiting period" before testing Saarland's fertility.

"The early indications were encouraging," he said. "It was a longshot, but there was a possibility."

Saarland was the sire of Grade 1 winner Collegiate.

Scarlet Ibis dies of heart attack at 23

Prominent New York stallion Scarlet Ibis, whose foals included Grade 3 winner Ruby Rubles, has died at age 23.

The Cormorant horse had been pensioned at Carl Lizza Jr., and Joseph Bartone's Highcliff Farm in Delanson, N.Y., since 2003 but remained a farm favorite. He died March 30 of a heart attack, according to Suzie O'Cain, Highcliff's stallion promoter and wife of Highcliff manager Lynwood O'Cain.

Scarlet Ibis was voted the 1988 New York-bred 2-year-old champion after winning a pair of New York Stallion Stakes, the Damon Runyon Stakes and the Empire Stakes. He earned $307,750 with wins in 5 of 6 lifetime starts. Richard DeStasio trained him for Michael T. Martin.

At stud, Scarlet Ibis sired 2000 Bed o' Roses winner Ruby Rubles as well as a host of other stakes winners, including Frankly My Dear, Wild Wings, Laken, and six other black-type winners.

Bred by Kinderhill Corp., Scarlet Ibis was a son of Fifties Galore, by Cornish Price.