07/30/2009 11:00PM

Quality Road ready for Amsterdam

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Barbara D. Livingston
Quality Road gets a bath Wednesday after working five furlongs in 59.20 seconds in preparation for his return in Monday's Grade 2 Amsterdam.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam has never been known as a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Shadwell Travers. But such could be the case this summer if Quality Road performs to expectations when making his much-anticipated return in Monday's Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga.

Quality Road was one of six entered for the Amsterdam, which is for 3-year-olds. A son of Elusive Quality, Quality Road will be making his first start since being sidelined by a foot injury in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby and first since being transferred to trainer Todd Pletcher's barn earlier this summer.

Quality Road drew post 4 and will be ridden by John Velazquez in the Amsterdam. He'll face a field that, from the rail out, includes the once-beaten Everyday Heroes (Alan Garcia), Custom for Carlos (Julien Leparoux), Cabaret Cowboy (Rajiv Maragh), Captain Cherokee (Robby Albarado), and Capt. Candyman Can (Javier Castellano).

Quality Road capped off his preparations for the Amsterdam with a bullet five-furlong work in 59.20 seconds here Wednesday.

Rain pelted the Saratoga area as entries were drawn for the Amsterdam early Friday afternoon, but Pletcher was confident conditions would improve prior to post time Monday.

American Dance tops Curlin Stakes

A more likely prep for the Travers will be decided Sunday, when seven 3-year-olds go 1 1/8 miles in the $70,000 Curlin Stakes. The Curlin was formally known as the Henry Walton Stakes, a race won last summer by Mambo in Seattle, who ultimately fell inches short of also winning the Travers when outgamed by Colonel John following a stirring stretch duel four weeks later.

Pletcher also may hold the upper hand in the Curlin, with American Dance likely to be favored off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Dwyer. In his previous start, American Dance registered a 6 1/2-length victory going nine furlongs against entry-level allowance opposition at Belmont, making him the only member of Curlin lineup with a win at that distance.

"He's doing very well, and the distance should suit him nicely," Pletcher said. "He's a 3-year-old who is still developing, and I don't think 1o1/16 miles was his best lick in the Dwyer."

Guam Typhoon will put his three-race win streak on the line in the Curlin. Guam Typhoon, a son of Distorted Humor, has never been beyond seven furlongs, but is a half-brother to stablemate Miss Isella, who is a three-time graded stakes winner around two turns.

Masala, Gone Astray, Nowhere to Hide, Blame, and Anaan complete the lineup.

Backtalk heads home, eyes Hopeful

Sanford Stakes winner Backtalk vanned back to Churchill Downs on Friday afternoon but may return for the Grade 1 Hopeful on Labor Day (Sept. 7), trainer Tom Amoss said.

Amoss checked in on Backtalk early Friday morning before catching a plane back to Kentucky, landing at Louisville shortly after 9 a.m.

"He looked good, bright and alert," Amoss said by phone. "Plans are up in the air with him, but a big possibility is to come back in the Hopeful."

Backtalk showed some grit outfinishing Enumerate and Louisvilleluminary to record his third win in as many starts. He also won the Grade 3 Bashford Manor.

"The will to win, I think certainly he's got it," said Amoss, who also expects the son of Smarty Jones to improve as he stretches out in distance.

Backtalk ran six furlongs in 1:10.07 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 82.

Hot Dixie Chick earns 103 Beyer

Hot Dixie Chick earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure for her authoritative victory in Wednesday's opening-day Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes, the highest figure earned in that race since the figures began being published in 1991.

Trainer Steve Asmussen said Hot Dixie Chick came out of the race in good order and will be pointed to the Grade 1 Spinaway here Sept. 6.

"I feel good about how she came out of the race, thought she was very impressive," he said. "Hoping to get to the Spinaway in the same shape."

On Thursday, Asmussen won a 2-year-old maiden race with the filly Kinsey, who earned an 86 Beyer for her half-length win. A daughter of Delaware Township, Kinsey ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.53. She bounced back from a fourth-place finish in her debut.

"First time out, she didn't break at all, and probably that was her strength," Asmussen said. "We were very surprised by that. So we felt that with a good break she'd run well, and she did."

Asmussen mentioned the $100,000 Sorority at Monmouth Park Sept. 5 as a possible next out for Kinsey.

Gleaves out for another celebration

Phil Gleaves is making a cameo appearance this week at Saratoga, the site of his finest hour in training. Though in town to run Mambo Meister in Sunday's Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap, Gleaves couldn't help but reminisce about the 1986 Travers, which he won with Wise Times.

Gleaves said he had a "tumultuous week" leading up to the Travers. Early in the week his jockey, Chris DeCarlo, was injured in a spill. Gleaves reached out to two jockeys in Southern California who both turned him down.

"My third choice was a new guy in town named Jerry Bailey," Gleaves said. "Jerry rode him masterfully."

The morning of the Travers, Gleaves sent Wise Times out for a gallop. The horse stumbled, dumped his exercise rider, and ran off.

"Here I was on my pony trying to catch him," Gleaves said.

Gleaves said he and his crew celebrated well into the night, closing the popular Broadway restaurant Lillian's.

"I had this hotwalker, Big Dave, who did great impressions," Gleaves said. "He must have called the race a hundred times. Wise Times kept winning, the champagne kept flowing."

Mambo Meister brings a two-race winning streak into the Fourstardave but is definitely stepping up in class here.

"It's time now to step up and see how he fits with these kind of horses," Gleaves said. "It's a big jump up in class, but he is training well; I think he's up to it. If he runs his 'A' race, I think they'll know we're in there."

Benny the Bull eyes Vanderbilt

Benny the Bull breezed five furlongs in 1:05.20 at Aqueduct on Friday, his second work since finishing second in Calder's Grade 2 Smile Handicap on July 12.

"He went well and he's on his game," trainer Rick Dutrow said. He said his Eclipse Award-winning sprinter could return in the six-furlong, Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt on Aug. 9. Another option is to wait until the seven-furlong Forego on Sept. 5, he said.

Tony Dutrow off to hot start

Dutrow's older brother Tony is off to a fast start at the session, winning a race a day over the first three days, including the meet's first open maiden race for 2-year-olds with the promising Westover Wildcat on Wednesday. Westover Wildcat had finished second in his career debut at Philadelphia Park three weeks earlier.

"We always knew he was better than average," said Dutrow who won with 8 of his 26 starters at the 2008 Spa session. "I'm sure there were some good ones in there making their debuts the other day, and it was certainly to our horse's advantage having had a race under his belt."

Dutrow said he will consider the Grade 1 Hopeful for Westover Wildcat's next start.

"We won't waste a race with him in an allowance," Dutrow said. "He obviously liked the track, so we'll just keep our fingers crossed and see how the Hopeful shapes up."

* Macho Again worked five furlongs in 1:00.66 over the Oklahoma training track early Friday, beating the heavy rains that forced the majority of works scheduled over both tracks to be cancelled. Macho Again will be among the starters in Saturday's Grade 1 Whitney.

- additional reporting

by David Grening