11/20/2009 12:00AM

Quality Road iffy for Cigar Mile

Barbara D. Livingston
Munnings, a Todd Pletcher horse being pointed to the Cigar Mile, has two previous races beyond seven furlongs, including a third in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell Invitational.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Quality Road's status for the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 28 at Aqueduct has not been decided, trainer Todd Pletcher said Friday morning.

"Don't know yet," Pletcher said at his Belmont Park office. "He will go to Aqueduct Saturday to school in the paddock around 11 a.m., and he'll go in the starting gate around 11:15. He'll probably breeze on Sunday, and we'll see how that goes."

Owned by Edward Evans, Quality Road threw a fit before the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, balking at loading into the gate and cutting himself, necessitating a scratch.

Several days later, he resisted attempts to be loaded onto a plane returning to New York. He wound up being vanned from coast to coast with a stopover at Churchill Downs.

Pletcher said Quality Road has been "perfect" since returning to Belmont, patiently enduring gate schooling supervised by Bob Duncan, the former starter for the New York Racing Association, and current members of the gate crew.

"Since shipping, he's handled everything and done as well as we could hope for," Pletcher said. "Obviously, this wouldn't be the way you would draw it up."

Pletcher is also pointing Munnings to the Cigar Mile. A 3-year-old, Munnings has run third in his last three outings, all Grade 1 stakes: the Haskell Invitational, the King's Bishop, and the Vosburgh.

The Cigar Mile would be Munnings' third race beyond seven furlongs, but Pletcher pointed to the Haskell, a 1 1/8-mile race, as evidence he could handle the distance.

"He was right there at the eighth pole," Pletcher said. "He was just beaten out for second by Summer Bird. Obviously, Rachel Alexandra was an impressive winner, but I thought he held in there well."

The Cigar Mile is the main event among the six graded stakes here over Thanksgiving weekend.

Busy Bribon returns to dirt

Last year's Cigar Mile put Bribon on the map when he rallied from 13 lengths off the pace to get third, beaten three quarters of a length.

A 6-year-old gelding trained by Bobby Ribaudo, Bribon established his credentials as a top dirt miler this season with victories in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes.

He'll be back for another crack at the Cigar Mile, switching back to the main track following a pair of grass races. He captured a money allowance at Saratoga before running fifth in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

Ribaudo said his main concern is that Bribon has been on the go continuously since last year's Cigar Mile.

"He hasn't skipped a beat since." Ribaudo said. "That's the most difficult part of the whole situation, trying to have him at his best. It's 13 months later, and we'll still getting ready for the Cigar Mile. He's had a lot of hard races in between, but he's still going pretty good."

One of the races Bribon was being considered for was the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Bribon was not eligible, so a hefty supplement fee would have been required. That the Cup was run on a synthetic track clinched the decision to stay home.

Vineyard Haven puts in work

Vineyard Haven drilled six furlongs in 1:13.03 Thursday at Belmont in preparation for the Cigar Mile.

The 3-year-old will be bidding for his fourth Grade 1 win, including his most recent victory in the De Francis Dash.

He could have one more breeze before the race.

"We'll see what the weather does this week," said Rick Mettee, the New York based assistant trainer for Godolphin Stables. "He should be spot on for this race."

Pyro, 10th in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, could join Vineyard Haven in the Cigar Mile, depending on how well he breezes on Sunday.

Stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes also expects Driven by Success and Kodiak Kowboy for the Cigar Mile. Vacation and Euroglide are questionable.

Godolphin Grade 1 winners retired

Mettee said Friday that Seventh Street, Cocoa Beach and Music Note were all retired following the Breeders' Cup.

All three were Grade 1 winners.

Music Note, third in the last two runnings of the BC Ladies' Classic, finished with a record of 7-for-12, earning Grade 1 wins in the Beldame, Ballerina, Gazelle, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Mother Goose.

Seventh Street, 5-for-10, scored Grade 1 victories in the Go For Wand and Apple Blossom.

Cocoa Beach, bred in Chile, took Grade 1 honors in the Beldame and Matriarch.

* Jim Riccio has taken over the book of Hall of Fame rider Edgar Prado, replacing Bob Frieze.