08/02/2010 2:17PM

Quality Road schools in Saratoga gate

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Todd Pletcher (left) watches as Quality Road schools in the Saratoga gate.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Not wanting a repeat of the gate incident that forced him to scratch from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, Quality Road had a relatively unique gate schooling session following regular training hours Monday morning in preparation for his start in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap.

Since the Whitney starts in front of the grandstand – right before the finish line – the gate was transported from the backstretch, where it stays all morning, to the frontside. Quality Road, completely tacked up and with regular rider John Velazquez on his back, and two stablemates took part in the session.

Quality Road was accompanied by a stable pony. He was handed over to assistant starter Guido Rouse, who has handled the colt previously in New York and will handle him again Saturday. Though he hesitated a time or two, Quality Road did go in without a problem and did not act up.

Quality Road was backed out and Exhi, a fellow 3-year-old who is running in Saturday’s West Virginia Derby, went into the first stall and Quality Road then went into the second stall. Bank Heist, a 2-year-old maiden also was there, but did not go into the gate with Quality Road.

Quality Road backed out of the gate and then went back to the barn.

“Couldn’t have went any better,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Well behaved in the paddock, walked right into the gate three times with horses in, without horses. I was very, very pleased.”

The last time Quality Road participated in a race that started in front of the grandstand was the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream in February and he did balk, according to Bob Duncan, a former NYRA starter who has worked frequently with Quality Road. Quality Road won the Donn by 12 3/4 lengths.

In his last start, Quality Road won the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, a race that started on the backstretch at Belmont.

“It’s going to be a little different environment starting in front of the grandstand,” Pletcher said. “We just wanted to cover all of our bases.”

On Sunday, Quality Road worked five furlongs in 59.93 seconds over the main track. He was assigned the top weight of 126 pounds for the Whitney.

Others expected to run include Blame (121), Mine That Bird (118), Haynesfield (116), and Jardin (113).

Musket Man, who finished second to Quality Road in the Met Mile, is possible to run. Derek Ryan said he will wait until Wednesday morning, which is entry day, to make a final decision. Musket Man was assigned 117 pounds.

On Monday, Musekt Man worked five furlongs in 59.29 seconds in company with the New York-bred 2-year-old maiden Private Rules.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin confirmed Monday that Redding Colliery would not run in the Whitney.

Asmussen 2-year-olds work

While most of the focus around Steve Asmussen’s barn Monday centered on Rachel Alexandra, a pair of his good-looking 2-year-olds put in breezes over the Oklahoma training track.

In the set before Rachel Alexandra worked, Wine Police, who won his debut by 7 3/4 lengths here July 23, went an easy half-mile in 53 seconds. He will most likely make his next start in the Grade 1 Hopeful on Sept. 6.

In the set after Rachel Alexandra worked, Kantharos, who is 2 for 2 including a 9 1/2-length victory in the Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs on July 3, went five furlongs in 1:00.53 in company with an older horse. Kantharos is likely to make his next start in the Grade 2 $150,000S Saratoga Special on Aug. 16.

“High energy, fast horse,” Asmussen said.

Shared Account targets Flower Bowl

Trainers Graham Motion and Jonathan Sheppard both shared similar feelings in the aftermath of Saturday’s Grade 1 Diana in which their top turf specialists Shared Account and Forever Together finished second and third, respectively, noses apart, behind eventual winner Proviso.

“I thought she ran very well, but when you get beat a head in a Grade 1 you have to be a little disappointed,” said Motion who trains Shared Account for Sagamore Farm.

Motion then paid Shared Account the ultimate compliment.

“She’s such an honest filly,” he said. “She reminds me a lot of Film Maker. She has a very similar running style as Film Maker, and I think she should appreciate the extra distance as the year gets longer.”

Motion trained Film Maker to earn more than $2.2 million and to finish second twice and third once in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

“Our plan from the beginning of the year for Shared Account was to get her to the Breeders’ Cup, so she’ll probably start just once more before the Filly and Mare Turf, maybe in the Flower Bowl,” Motion said.

The Flower Bowl also could be on the agenda for Forever Together, Sheppard acknowledged Monday while still voicing his disappointment over yet another close call for the former Breeders’ Cup winner and Eclipse Award winner. The setback was the sixth in a row for Forever Together since she successfully defended her title in the 2009 Diana. She has hit the board in each of those six losses, four of which have come by margins of a half-length or less.

“Getting beat like that again and to keep missing with her is a little frustrating, but she ran another big race and proved she’s still as good as ever,” Sheppard said. “In retrospect, if Julien [Leparoux] had waited a little longer and swung out and gotten in the clear, I think she might have won. Instead, the second horse kind of leaned on her a bit when she tried to make her move.”

Sheppard said bringing Forever Together back in three weeks for the Beverly D. is an option as is the Flower Bowl and Woodbine’s Canadian.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch