02/13/2015 4:41PM

Leading Kentucky sires: Quality Road

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Barbara D. Livingston
Quality Road stands at Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky.

Leading Kentucky freshman sire by earnings and average earnings
Leading Kentucky turf sire by average earnings

It was a competitive season for freshman sires, with a deep group battling it out in the division. In the end, Quality Road, himself a multiple Grade 1 winner, prevailed atop the earnings list, thanks to runners who excelled over a variety of surfaces and distances.

Quality Road, a 9-year-old son of Elusive Quality standing at Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky., finished 2014 with $1,572,480 in progeny earnings – the bulk of it picked up by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner and divisional Eclipse Award finalist Hootenanny, who won $751,985. That was enough to edge Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, an 8-year-old Maria’s Mon horse standing at WinStar Farm in Versailles, with $1,547,113 in earnings.

Two graded stakes winners, Hootenanny and Blofeld, helped make Quality Road the leading freshman sire by average earnings; he also finished as leading turf sire by average earnings. Quality Road’s numbers were also good enough for him to rank fifth among juvenile sires overall, a list headed by perennial leading sire Giant’s Causeway.

“[Quality Road has] shown a tremendous breadth in the type of horse he can get – Hootenanny on the turf and Blofeld on the dirt,” Lane’s End’s Bill Farish said. “So many people weren’t really expecting him to come out with a lot of 2-year-olds, so the fact that he has has really impressed people a lot.”

Quality Road’s own career was brilliant, but marked by misadventure. He won the Fountain of Youth Stakes and Florida Derby – establishing a track record in the latter – before a quarter crack kept him out of the Triple Crown series. Transferred from trainer Jimmy Jerkens to Todd Pletcher, Quality Road established another track record in the Amsterdam Stakes in his first start off the layoff, and then finished third in the Travers Stakes and second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He was entered in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but then infamously scratched at the gate following a prolonged standoff with handlers while trying to be loaded.

After extensive gate-schooling over the winter, Quality Road returned for a solid 2010 season. He won the Hal’s Hope Stakes; romped by 12 3/4 lengths in the Donn Handicap, breaking his own Gulfstream Park record; won the Metropolitan Handicap; finished second by a head to eventual champion Blame in the Whitney Handicap; and rolled in the Woodward Stakes. He started in that year’s Classic but turned in his only unplaced outing when 12th in his career finale. He won 8 of 13 career starts and earned $2,232,830.

Quality Road sired 18 winners from 44 first-crop starters in 2014. That group was led by Hootenanny, who didn’t miss the board while competing with distinction on three surfaces. The colt captured his debut on Keeneland’s Polytrack, then finished third in the Rollicking Stakes on dirt at Pimlico. He spend a productive summer in Europe, taking the Windsor Castle Stakes at the renowned Royal Ascot meeting and finishing second in the Prix Morny, a Group 1 stakes. He concluded his season by winning the Juvenile Turf. 

Trainer Wesley Ward mentioned the English 2000 Guineas as Hootenanny’s major spring target, followed by another tilt at Royal Ascot.

Quality Road could be represented in the Kentucky Derby as the well-regarded Blofeld prepares for his 3-year-old debut. The colt won all three of his starts last year, with a pair of graded stakes scores in the Futurity and Nashua Stakes.

Other standouts for Quality Road include Overprepared, Roaming, and Quality Lane, all stakes-placed last year. Overprepared captured the Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct in her 3-year-old bow, putting herself on the Kentucky Oaks leader board.

On the heels of that big year, Quality Road’s popularity has risen accordingly.

“It was a tremendous year,” Farish said. “The response from his first year has been amazing. We increased his stud fee from $25,000 to $35,000, and the interest level hasn’t waned at all. We’re very happy to see that.”

Behind Quality Road on the earnings list were Super Saver and Lookin At Lucky, who tied with the most stakes winners (four each) among freshman sires. Lookin At Lucky led all freshman sires by number of winners (29).