06/27/2014 2:41PM

Hot Sire: Quality Road off to strong start

Barbara D. Livingston
Multiple Grade 1 winner Quality Road is off to a strong start as a sire, notching his first career stakes winner at the recent Royal Ascot meeting.

If July is traditionally the month when the North American breeding and sales sectors shift attention to the approaching major yearling auctions, it is also the month when fans begin to pay full attention to emerging 2-year-olds on the racetrack.

Several first-crop sires have hit the ground running with their debut horses, so to speak, including Spendthrift Farm’s Warrior’s Reward and Ashford Stud’s Lookin At Lucky. The first stakes winner by a North American first-crop sire, however, came overseas June 17 during the prestigious Royal Ascot meet in England, as Keeneland maiden winner Hootenanny, a son of Lane’s End’s Quality Road, turned heads with a stylish 3 1/2-length win over 23 opponents in the five-furlong Windsor Castle Stakes on turf.

Hootenanny won his first race with aplomb at Keeneland on April 17, scoring by 4 1/4  lengths in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race on Polytrack. After finishing third in the Rollicking Stakes at Pimlico over a muddy track May 16, Hootenanny was purchased by the Coolmore Stud-affiliated Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith and sent to Royal Ascot with several others from trainer Wesley Ward’s string.

The colt’s unplaced dam, More Hennessy, is by precocious Grade 1-winning sprinter Hennessy and is a half-sister to Grade 1 sprint winner Cat Moves, by Tale of the Cat, bred on the same Storm Cat-line cross. Hootenanny’s second dam, Dance Move, was unraced, but his third dam, Dance Teacher, by Smarten, won the Grade 1 Ladies Handicap at 1 1/4 miles and also was a graded stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles.

Dance Teacher and Cat Moves were homebred by the late Edward P. “Ned” Evans, an influential figure in the Virginia Thoroughbred community and nationwide from one of the sport’s prominent 20th-century families. Evans also bred and campaigned the incredibly talented Quality Road, who, for a few weeks during the spring of 2009, appeared to be on track to give Evans’s Spring Hill Farm a classic winner to pair with his father Thomas Mellon Evans’s 1981 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Pleasant Colony.

Quality Road, by Elusive Quality out of the Strawberry Road mare Kobla, burst on the scene with an impressive maiden win in November 2008. The next spring, he won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Grade 1 Florida Derby in commanding fashion, earning Beyer Speed Figures of 113 and 111 to head into the Kentucky Derby as the likely morning-line favorite.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens withdrew Quality Road from consideration several days prior to the Derby draw, however, due to a quarter crack, and the colt resurfaced in August at Saratoga under Todd Pletcher’s supervision to win the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes and run third in the Travers Stakes.

After posting a strong second to Summer Bird in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont, Quality Road provided one of the more unsettling moments in racing over the past several years when he refused to load into the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita and was scratched.

Returned to race at 4, Quality Road would go on to produce the sort of campaign that virtually guarantees a stall at one of central Kentucky’s leading stud farms. He won the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope at Gulfstream to kick off the year and then powered to a 121-Beyer, 12 3/4-length win in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, one of the most impressive racetrack performances in recent memory.

A game win in the sire-making Met Mile followed, then Quality Road notched a close runner-up effort to Blame in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga and an overpowering score in the Woodward Stakes. Quality Road’s final start was his only poor one, as he pressed the pace through six furlongs in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs before stopping abruptly and finishing last.

By that point, however, he had little left to prove, with four Grade 1 wins and almost $2.3 million in earnings, and was retired to Will Farish’s Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky.

As a stallion, Quality Road got off to a strong start in the auction ring, leading all first-crop yearling sires by gross receipts at last year’s Keeneland September sale.

He continued to curry favor among buyers during the just-completed juvenile sales season, with three 2-year-olds selling for more than $300,000 each. His top-priced juvenile, Conquest Quickdraw, sold for $390,000, the second-most-expensive offering at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. June sale. That colt is from the female family of Grade 2 Darley Alcibiades winner Be Gentle (his second dam) and $600,000 earner Harvard Avenue, among several other stakes horses.

Hootenanny’s win in the Windsor Castle augurs well for Quality Road’s future as a potential option for turf-oriented breeders. Although Quality Road never competed on grass, his sire, Elusive Quality, has enjoyed international success via top-flight turf horses in Europe (Elusive Kate) and Australia (Sepoy), as well as globe-trotting Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass.

Furthermore, Quality Road’s kinship to broodmare sire Strawberry Road opens up a wide path of breeding possibilities. A turf graded/group stakes winner in Australia, France, Germany, and the United States, Strawberry Road adds Northern Dancer to Elusive Quality’s Mr. Prospector to create a comprehensive pedigree package (Strawberry Road was a prolific dirt sire as well, responsible for champion females Escena and Ajina, the latter Kobla’s full sister).

Quality Road’s other first-crop winner through Wednesday, Quality Lane, is based far away from the stately environs of Keeneland and Royal Ascot. The bay filly won first out at Northlands Park in Edmonton, Alberta, in a 3 1/2-furlong dash for an ownership group headed by Alberta-based Victor Kleparchuk.

Bred by Farish in Kentucky, Quality Lane has a pedigree that belies the brevity of her debut race. She is out of the Mineshaft mare Top Value, whose half-sister, five-time graded stakes winner Class Kris, is the dam of Pacific Classic winner Student Council. This year’s Wood Memorial winner, Wicked Strong, is another family member.

Correction: The article originally stated a wrong location for Northlands Park. The racetrack is located in Edmonton, Alberta, not in Vancouver, British Columbia.