10/10/2010 12:12PM

Quality Road focuses on building stamina

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Todd Pletcher wants to make sure Quality Road is fit enough to handle 1 1/4 miles in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The task of preparing Quality Road to get the 1 1/4 miles of next month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was picked up in earnest Sunday morning at Belmont Park as the multiple Grade 1-winning colt worked five furlongs in company and then proceeded to gallop out an additional three-eighths of a mile.

Working in company with the Grade 3 stakes-winning turf horse Pleasant Strike, Quality Road went five furlongs in 1:01.09 over the Belmont training track, getting his last quarter in 25.15 seconds. Under exercise rider Patti Barry, Quality Road then galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.31, seven-eighths in 1:28.34, and a mile in 1:43.92 over a track that did not seem to have a lot of bounce to it.

“We know that he’s blessed with a lot of talent and speed, what we’re trying to focus on is stretching him out to a mile and quarter,” Pletcher said afterward. “We’re trying to make sure we have him fit for that. I thought the three-eighths after the wire was exceptional on that track.”

Quality Road is winless in two starts at 1 1/4 miles, having finished third in the Travers and second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last year as a 3-year-old. Both races were run over sloppy tracks. Quality Road is 4 for 5 this year with victories in the Hal’s Hope, Donn, Met Mile, and Woodward and a head loss to Blame in the Whitney.

Quality Road finished Sunday’s work about two lengths in front of Pleasant Strike, and Pletcher indicated he may seek a different workmate for Quality Road in future moves.

“I was hoping Pleasant Strike would stay involved a little more than he did,” Pletcher said.

Quality Road is expected to have two more works at Belmont before having his final move at Churchill Downs the weekend before the Classic.

Following the Breeders' Cup, Quality Road will stand at Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Ky., it was jointly announced Saturday by the farm and the 4-year-old colt’s breeder-owner, Edward P. Evans. Quality Road has won 8 of 12 career starts for earnings of more than $2.2 million. He will remain Evans’ property, with a stud fee to be announced at a later date.

Pletcher put a couple of other Breeders’ Cup contenders through works Sunday at Belmont, including Bribon and Stay Thirsty.

Bribon, who could be supplemented to either the Sprint or the Dirt Mile, worked four furlongs in 48.66 seconds with a final quarter in 24.04 seconds and a strong gallop out of five furlongs in 1:02.12. It was Bribon’s second work since missing a little bit of training time due to a foot issue.

“I think he made a big step forward today. I thought it was a good work from him,” Pletcher said.

If owner Derrick Smith elects to supplement to the Breeders’ Cup, Pletcher said he would lean toward running Bribon in the six-furlong Sprint as opposed to the Dirt Mile because of Churchill’s long stretch and the extended run-up to the pole in six-furlong races.

“It’s not quite 6 1/2 [furlongs], but it’s close to it,” Pletcher said.

Stay Thirsty, the Grade1 Hopeful runner-up whom Pletcher scratched from Saturday’s Grade 1 Champagne, went five furlongs in 1:02.38 over the training track Sunday morning. He got his final quarter in 25.29 seconds while galloping out six furlongs in 1:16.24 and seven eighths in 1:31.88. Pletcher said despite having Champagne winner Uncle Mo to run in the Juvenile for the same owner, Mike Repole, Stay Thirsty will be pointed to the Juvenile as well.

“We like the idea that it’s at Churchill, both horses get a trip over the track there, it might be worth something down the road,” said Pletcher, obviously referencing next May’s Kentucky Derby. “Stay Thirsty, based on his achievements so far, certainly deserves the chance.”

Pletcher said Uncle Mo came out of his impressive 4 3/4-length victory in Saturday’s Champagne in excellent shape and would have two works - one at Belmont and one at Churchill - before the Juvenile.

“It’s going to be a different race - two turns, mile-and-a-sixteenth, new surface,” Pletcher said. “Everything that he did yesterday would suggest that the mile and a sixteenth would be no issue. I’d be pretty confident.”

Over a very fast track, Uncle Mo ran a mile in 1:34.51 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 94 in the Champagne.

Pletcher said R Heat Lightning, who had a troubled trip when finishing second to A Z Warrior in Saturday’s Grade 1 Frizette, would be his lone representative at this stage for the Juvenile Fillies. R Heat Lightning, who won the Grade 1 Spinaway, broke inward from the rail in the Frizette and was boxed in for a good part of the trip before finding running room late at the three-sixteenths pole. Her late run fell 1 3/4 lengths short.

“I thought she ran a huge race considering everything,” Pletcher said.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee