09/04/2010 7:04PM

Quality Road does just enough to get the job done

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Barbara D. Livingston
Quality Road, winning the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, completed his major work for the Breeders' Cup Classic with a Sunday breeze at Belmont Park.

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - He was not the dazzling Quality Road that had been seen previously this year, but he was a winner nonetheless.

Doing what was expected of him against a soft group of competitors, Quality Road, the 1-4 favorite, bounced back from his narrow loss to Blame in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap with a 4 3/4-length score in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.

Mythical Power, who raced in third position early, got up for second, one-half length in front of a late-running Tranquil Manner. Convocation, Indian Dance, Arcodoro, and Mind That Bird, who raced closer to the pace than usual equipped with blinkers for the first time, completed the order of finish.

Quality Road took over from pacesetting Arcodoro just past the seven-sixteenths pole, was well clear of his rivals entering the stretch, and was kept to his task by John Velazquez through the lane. Velazquez won four races on Saturday’s program to take a 55-52 lead over Javier Castellano entering the final two days of the meet.

It was the third fourth victory from five starts this year for Quality Road, who also won the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope, as well as the Donn and Metropolitan handicaps, both Grade 1 events.

Quality Road improved his career mark to 8 wins from 12 starts and pushed his career earnings to $2,232,830 for owner/breeder Edward P. Evans.

“This is the race we expected,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who won three races on the card and now has meet-leading 34 victories, 15 more than Linda Rice. “He’s proven before that he’s a top class horse, I think he proved it again today.”

In the Whitney, Quality Road made the lead, but couldn’t hold it, succumbing to Blame by a head at the wire.

Saturday, Quality Road had an early target, tracking Arcodoro through fractions of 24.06 seconds for the quarter and 47.76 for the half-mile. Velazquez had Quality Road within a half-length of Arcodoro before poking a head in front leaving the seven-sixteenths pole.

Once in the clear, Quality Road got to loafing a little in the stretch, which led Velazquez to hit him twice right-handed and twice left-handed before giving him a vigorous hand-ride to the wire.

“For whatever reason, he gets to the lead and he’s gotten to be lazy so I got to get after him,” Velazquez said. “He’s older and smarter, he thinks he’s done when he gets to the lead. But he did it well.”

Both Velazquez and Pletcher feel Quality Road is better when he has something to run at early.

“I think he’d actually be better if he had someone to follow a little longer than he did today,” Pletcher said. “He made the lead pretty early in the race. I think as an older horse he’s a little smarter and a little wiser and he tends to wait a little bit when he does make the lead. He was well enough clear today that he could kind of coast in.”

Quality Road returned $2.60. His final time of 1:50.00 for 1 1/8 miles was the third slowest Woodward in 31 runnings at the distance.

“The final time I think was reflective of the racetrack,” Pletcher said. “When you see a race like the Forego go in 1:22-and-change [for seven furlongs] to me it’s playing in a one-turn race at least a full second slower, you got to anticipate it’s going to be even more than that in a two-turn race; pretty strong headwind down the lane if you look at the flags.”

Pletcher reiterated that more than likely Quality Road would train up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 6. He said that Quality Road would likely van to Churchill Downs in time to get one work over the main track, the weekend before the big event.