05/31/2010 11:00PM

Quality Road strong as ever the day after


ELMONT, N.Y. - As impressive an effort as Quality Road put forth winning Monday's at Belmont Park, it was how little the performance seemed to take out of him that had his connections shaking their head in awe Tuesday morning.

In his first start in 114 days, Quality Road, carrying top weight of 124 pounds, beat Musket Man by 1 1/2 lengths while running a mile in 1:33.11, which equaled the second-fastest clocking of the Met Mile. According to Jonathan Thomas, the assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, who was with Quality Road immediately after the race, the horse had already cooled out, or recovered, before getting to the test barn.

"One of the most amazing things I've ever seen -- by the time he came out of the tunnel he was eyeing up the grass [to graze]," said Thomas, who added that on Tuesday morning "you would never have thought he ran the way he looked this morning."

Quality Road's final time equaled the clocking of Langfuhr (1:33.11 in 1997) and, to the fifth of a second, the final time of Conquistador Cielo, who ran 1:33 flat in 1982 before times were kept in hundredths. Honour and Glory holds the Met Mile stakes record of 1:32.81 set in 1996 when, as a 3-year-old, he won carrying 110 pounds.

Quality Road earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 114 for the effort.

"The more I watch it the more impressive it is to me," Chris Baker, the farm/racing manager for owner Edward Evans, said Tuesday morning. "He was giving six to 10 pounds to the field -- seven to the runner-up -- he ran fractions of 22, 45 1:08 and change, and still came home like that and gallop out well and look like he hadn't run a race. That's a neuromuscular genius right there."

Now, Baker, Evans and Pletcher have to decide how best to proceed with Quality Road's campaign, which is designed to conclude with the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6. Races like the Whitney (Aug. 7) and Woodward (Sept. 4) -- both 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga -- are on their radar screen. But with the horse coming out of the race so well, the Grade 2, $300,000 Suburban here on July 3 is a possibility.

"I think if the Suburban were a Grade 1 it would take stronger consideration, but it is something we're still thinking about," Baker said. "Mr. Evans, Todd, and I talked [Monday] night and said let's wait four or five days see where we are, see what we think is going on.

"The Suburban, Whitney, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup [at Belmont Oct. 2] are all potential races," Baker said. "We're not intending to dance every one of those dances. The horse runs so well fresh, we just want to leave plenty in the tank for November."

Meanwhile, the Met Mile runner-up, Musket Man, is going to get a break at Hunter's Run Farm, a five-mile drive from Monmouth Park, according to trainer Derek Ryan. Musket Man will likely be kept in one-turn races with the seven-furlong Forego, a Grade 1 race at Saratoga on Sept. 4 as a possible target. The Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and the Grade 1 Cigar Mile could also be potential races for Musket Man.

"We're going to give him a little break, get him fresh, get him ready for the fall," Ryan said. "I'd like to keep him going a flat mile."

Hour Glass to Princess Rooney

The Met Mile capped a pretty nice Memorial Day weekend for the Pletcher stable, which also won the Grade 2 Vagrancy here with Hour Glass on Saturday, the Grade 3 Dogwood at Churchill Downs with Ailalea and the $159,000 Marine Stakes at Woodbine with Exhi.

Pletcher said Hour Glass could make her next start in the Grade 1, $350,000 Princess Rooney at Calder on July 10. The Princess Rooney is run at six furlongs and could be a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga on Aug. 28.

"Timing-wise it's good -- she seems to appreciate a little space between her races," Pletcher said. "Grade 1 opportunities sprinting for fillies are somewhat difficult to find."

No plans are firm for Ailalea, but the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont on June 26 is a possibility.

Exhi is not a Canadian-bred thus he is not eligible for the Queens Plate. Pletcher said, however, that the $150,000 Victoria Park Stakes at Woodbine on June 27 is a possibility.

A homecoming for Margolis

Steve Margolis has spent more than a decade in Kentucky, but as a native New Yorker this week's Belmont Stakes offers the 46-year-old trainer a chance to return home.

Margolis, who sends out longshot Stay Put in Saturday's $1 million Belmont, was born in New York City and moved out to Long Island at age 12. His first few jobs on the racetrack included working as a groom for John Veitch, and stints as an assistant with Pat Byrne and Howie Tesher. In 1997, Margolis went to south Florida with Stan Hough and then went to Kentucky as Hough's assistant until 2000 when he went out on his own.

In 2002, Margolis made it to his first Kentucky Derby with Request for Parole, who finished fifth. In 2003, Margolis won the Breeders' Cup Sprint with Cajun Beat.

Margolis has run only three horses at Belmont Park, winning a third-level allowance race with Due Date last year before that same horse finished third in the Jaipur Stakes.

"It's fun to come back to Belmont and potentially have a live shot in a big race," said Margolis, who trains Stay Put for owners Richard, Betram and Elaine Klein. "Hope to get lucky and hope we have enough horse."

Margolis and the Kleins were hoping to get Stay Put into the Kentucky Derby, but fifth-place finishes in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby did not get him enough earnings to make the field. On Derby Day, he won a second-level allowance race by three-quarters of a length in the slop at Churchill.

"We always thought this colt had a lot of potential," Margolis said. "After he won the race on Derby Day we all sat down and thought about it. He's a long-striding colt, doesn't seem like a distance would be a problem. Just a question whether he can step up to this Grade 1 company."

My Princess Jess joins Just a Game

Still seeking her first Grade 1 stakes victory, My Princess Jess will run in Saturday's $400,000 Just a Game. Trainer Barclay Tagg scratched My Princess Jess out of Monday's Eatontown Stakes and on Tuesday, My Princess Jess worked an easy half-mile over the inner turf course Tuesday, but no time was recorded.

"We were going to run at Monmouth, but it looked like a really tough race," said Robin Smullen, assistant to Tagg. "The Just a Game is going to be a really tough race, but if you're hoping to get lucky and win one of them, you might as well go for the Grade 1. She's already a Grade 3 and a Grade 2 winner, we need to get a Grade 1."

Monday's Eatontown scratched down to a five-horse field and was won by Gypsy's Warning, a 5-year-old South African-bred mare who was making her first start in 51 weeks. She won by a nose over Maram.

The Just a Game will be led by Proviso, who beat the boys in the Grade 1 Kilroe at Santa Anita last out. The field will also include Cherokee Queen, Dynaslew, Phola, Speak Easy Gal and possibly Carribean Sunset, Czechers and Granted Tiger.