11/25/2009 12:00AM

Quality Road out of Cigar Mile


Quality Road will not run in Saturday's Grade 1 Hill 'n' Dale Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, his connections said Wednesday afternoon.

After Quality Road became unruly at the gate and cut himself, necessitating that he be scratched from the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7, trainer Todd Pletcher had hoped to make the Cigar Mile with the star-crossed 3-year-old who earlier in the year won the Grade 1 Florida Derby. And though his training and gate-schooling sessions went well in New York, the prospect of an off track Saturday was one of several factors that led owner Ed Evans and his farm manager, Chris Baker, to pull the plug.

"The bottom line is we felt maybe it was a little bit of a push for the horse given everything that transpired between Santa Anita and now," Baker said. "We're focusing now on what we hope to be a very productive 2010 campaign that puts him in position to be champion older horse and Horse of the Year. With that in mind we're giving him a little bit more time."

Baker said that Quality Road would be shipped to south Florida next week and likely begin his 4-year-old campaign in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope at Gulfstream Park on Jan.3. The Hal's Hope is the prep for the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 6.

Baker said it was his and Evans' initial thought to put Quality Road away for the year following the Breeders' Cup debacle. But the horse trained well and behaved perfectly in the morning and afternoon at the gate to warrant consideration.

"Our initial instinct leaving California after the Breeders' Cup was that the Cigar Mile was coming up too quick," Baker said. "But the horse did so well on the track and did well at the gate, maybe we're crazy not to think about this race."

The defection of Quality Road and Munnings, who will miss the race because of a foot injury, leaves the Cigar Mile with a likely five-horse field with only four betting interests. Vineyard Haven and Pyro, both owned by Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Stable, will be a coupled entry. Grade 1 winners Bribon and Kodiak Kowboy will also run as will the speedy New York-bred Driven by Success.