02/16/2009 12:00AM

Quality Road eyes rebound in stakes

J.B. Falconer
Beethoven will make his next start in the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 28. He worked five furlongs in 1:04.94 on Sunday in preparation for the race.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The prospective starting lineup for the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 28 - a formidable group to begin with - got even stronger after trainer Jimmy Jerkens confirmed he is pointing Quality Road for the one-mile event.

Quality Road was near the top of just about everybody's list of leading Kentucky Derby candidates when the new year began following his smashing debut win last fall in New York. But the son of Elusive Quality fell off the radar just a bit after being upset by Theregoesjojo in a seven-furlong allowance dash here Jan. 10. Quality Road has not started since that race, and Jerkens acknowledged that might put him at a bit of a disadvantage over his more experienced opposition in the Fountain of Youth.

"He came down with a cough after his last start, and I had to give him a little time," Jerkens said. "And I just wasn't able to get him going again soon enough to get another allowance race in before the Fountain of Youth. But we were able to get Johnny [Velazquez] for the race and that helps, and he is a long, lean kind of horse, a natural athlete, and you can do it with a horse like that."

Quality Road has worked forwardly for his return, including six furlongs in 1:14 at Palm Meadows on Saturday. He will join a field of potential Derby candidates for the Fountain of Youth, which also is expected to include Capt. Candyman Can, Notonthesamepage, This Ones For Phil, Beethoven, Theregoesjojo, Taqarub, Break Water Edison, and Jack Spratt.

Beethoven drills for stakes

Beethoven continued his preparations for the Fountain of Youth here Sunday under the shroud of a light fog, working a slow five furlongs in 1:04.94. Beethoven finished a wide-running fourth from an outside post position when making his 3-year-old debut in the nine-furlong Holy Bull Stakes here Jan. 31.

"That was all right, he pretty much does what the rider wants in the morning," said trainer John Ward, referring to the slow time of Beethoven's work. "I've still got plenty of time to come back and speed him up and do something a little more strenuous next week. I was just happy to see him relaxed this morning. He was a little wired up in his first work after the last race. One thing I do know, coming off a mile-and-an-eighth race, he won't be a short horse at a mile in the Fountain of Youth."

Imperial Council's next undecided

Imperial Council won't run in the Fountain of Youth, but he does figure to be heard from on the Kentucky Derby trail somewhere along the line later this winter, whether it be in Florida or New York. A son of Empire Maker, Imperial Council launched his 3-year-old campaign in impressive fashion here Saturday by running down the speedy Z Day to capture a first-level allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs. Imperial Council was ridden to victory by Edgar Prado, one of three wins on the card for the Hall of Fame jockey.

The first-level allowance win was the second tally in three starts for Imperial Council, whose lone setback came at the hands of another Kentucky Derby prospect, Hello Broadway, in his debut. Imperial Council received a 94 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance Saturday.

"I was very pleased with the effort," said Shug McGaughey who trains Imperial Council for Sequoia Racing. "The race worked out pretty well for us. He had a good post and a little speed to sit and wait behind. And when Edgar asked him, he said he was eager and right there for him. I thought he might have gotten a little tired at the end, but Edgar said he was just playing around after he made the lead."

McGaughey said he has no plans at the moment for Imperial Council's next start.

"That was a good race to get him where we need to go with him," McGaughey said. "He'll need a mile race now."

Finallymadeit works on turf

Finallymadeit, second behind Albertus Maximus in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap when returning on just one week's rest, showed up on the turf course Sunday morning, where he worked an easy three furlongs in 41 seconds around the dogs under jockey Eduardo Nunez.

"We're basically here to see if he likes the grass," said owner Rolando Rodriguez, who was on hand to oversee the work in the absence of trainer Javier Negrette. Negrette had to return home to his native Mexico to be with his ailing mother.

Finallymadeit is nominated to Saturday's $150,000 Mac Diarmida, and Rodriguez confirmed later Sunday morning that his homebred would run in the 11-furlong grass fixture.

"The rider said he took it easy," Rodriguez said. "If he runs well in this race, we might bring him back the following week as well in the Canadian Turf - same as we did when he was second in the Donn."

Rodriguez said he also is hopeful that Finallymadeit will get an invitation to the Dubai World Cup.

"From what I've been told, Albertus Maximus is going to be the horse to beat in Dubai, and if that's the case, why shouldn't we go and take a shot at him again after the way our horse ran against him in the Donn?" he said.

The Grade 2 Mac Diarmida is expected to draw a strong field that will include Grade 1 winners Grand Couturier, Red Rocks, and Presious Passion.

Plans up in air for Tale of Ekati

Tale of Ekati came out of Saturday's Richter Scale none the worse for wear, according to Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg. Tale of Ekati finished a well-beaten fourth under Edgar Prado as the even-money favorite in the Gradeo2 Richter Scale, which was won by the 45-1 outsider How's Your Halo.

"He came out of the race fine," Smullen said. "Edgar said he just didn't really care for the track."

Tagg had been pointing Tale of Ekati, a two-time Grade 1 winner at 3, for the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap at a mile on March 14, but those plans could change in light of Saturday's performance.

"We'll have to discuss it, but we might consider other alternatives for him now," Smullen said.

* Nicanor, Barbaro's baby brother, worked four furlongs in 51.60 seconds at Palm Meadows on Monday. It was his first work since finishing far back following an unlucky beginning in his much publicized career debut here Jan. 31.