04/24/2009 11:00PM

Quality Road suffers new quarter crack

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Barbara D. Livingston
Quality Road has suffered a quarter crack to his right front foot, putting his status for the Kentucky Derby in question.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Just when it seemed Quality Road had overcome a quarter crack in his right hind foot, another crack has developed on the inside part of his right front foot, once again putting his status for the May 2 Kentucky Derby in jeopardy.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens had planned to work Quality Road at Belmont Park on Saturday but now will put that off to at the earliest Sunday, but most likely Monday. Quality Road, who would be one of the Derby favorites based on victories in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, is scheduled to fly to Kentucky on Tuesday.

"I guess if he can breeze by Monday and breeze good and be good coming out of it, that'd be the best we can hope for," Jerkens said late Friday afternoon in his Belmont Park barn. "We certainly can't go any closer than that."

On Friday afternoon, equine hoof specialist Ian McKinlay put in a set of wires, akin to sutures, to stabilize the quarter crack.

"When you press it in, you see a little bit of serum, which means there's movement and that's why you get that little bit of tenderness up top," said McKinlay, who worked on Quality Road after driving from Philadelphia Park. "So as soon as we lock that down, everything should start calming down quickly."

McKinlay said there was no heat in the foot, which is a good sign that there is no infection brewing.

"Other than what we're aiming for," said McKinlay, referring to the Kentucky Derby, "it would be just straight forward. The foot's ice cold right now; he's walking good."

McKinlay said the quarter crack suffered by Quality Road was minor compared to the ones incurred by Big Brown prior to last year's Belmont Stakes and the one Touch Gold developed prior to the 1997 Belmont. Touch Gold won his Belmont, while Big Brown failed to finish his.

Quality Road was diagnosed with the quarter crack on Thursday morning following a routine training session in which he schooled at the gate and then galloped three-quarters of a mile over the Belmont training track. Jerkens said that when a blacksmith went to put a new set of shoes on Quality Road, the crack was diagnosed.

"It didn't have any blood or anything, but it was there," Jerkens said. "It wasn't something you could see too easy unless you got real close to it."

Quality Road did not go to the track to train on Friday.

McKinlay said the quarter crack on Quality Road's right front foot is smaller than the one that developed on his right hind foot while he was winning the March 28 Florida Derby. The original patch that was put on by a farrier in south Florida did not hold, and Quality Road had some blood coming from that foot following a routine gallop on April 6. McKinlay put a new patch on the hind foot April 8 and the horse has twice worked without any incident.

Jerkens said Friday afternoon that he would wait until he saw Quality Road on Saturday morning before deciding whether to just jog or gallop him. If he's able to gallop him, Quality Road could possibly work Sunday. If Quality Road jogged Saturday, he would gallop Sunday and work Monday. Ed Evans, the owner of Quality Road, was scheduled to be at the barn Saturday.

McKinlay said he would wait until whatever day Jerkens plans to work Quality Road to put an acrylic patch over the quarter crack.

Naturally, Jerkens, 50, is still hoping he can still make the Derby.

"Yeah, sure," Jerkens said. "He's not going to be 20-1. Well, he might be now."

Summer Bird works by himself

Summer Bird was the lone Derby runner to work at Churchill Downs on Friday, traveling six furlongs in 1:16.06 while working by himself for trainer Tim Ice.

"I thought he went well," Ice said. "The track was a little deep, and unless he has something with him, he turns in pedestrian times."

Summer Bird finished third in the Arkansas Derby in his last start, which was just the third start in a career that began March 1. The day after the Arkansas Derby, Ice said Summer Bird would await the Lone Star Derby on May 9, then point for the Belmont Stakes on June 6.

But once Summer Bird began to creep up the graded stakes earnings list and it looked like he could get into the 20-horse Derby field, Dr. K.K. Jayaraman, who bred and owns the colt with his wife, Valasini, decided to reroute Summer Bird to Churchill Downs.

Ice, 34, a longtime assistant who only has been on his own for a year, trains 25 horses, 15 of whom are owned by the Jayaramans.

Is Ice worried that running in the Derby, a little more than two months after Summer Bird's debut, will prove detrimental?

"I think he'll run well," Ice said. "It's still three weeks from the Arkansas Derby to the Kentucky Derby. If he'd have run in the Lexington last week and then have had to come back in two weeks, that would be a little different. He ran back just 18 days after his first start, and then it was a little more than three weeks to the Arkansas Derby. Each time he's come back better than before.

"With a little bit of luck, we can get to the Belmont," Ice added. "I think he'll love a mile and a half. I think he'll like a mile and a quarter, but there's a lot of horses you have to run through. This gives him five weeks to the Belmont. I don't think I'd want to run him back in the Preakness, even if he were to win the Derby."

This is the first time Ice has been to Churchill Downs during Derby Week. It was fairly quiet on Friday morning, but the backstretch activity will get increasingly hectic over the next week.

"I've heard the stories," Ice said. "But until you see it for yourself, you don't know."

Ice said he was gratified that Nick Zito, who trains Summer Bird's sire, Birdstone, came by to say hello.

"He asked if I needed anything," Ice said. "That was very classy."

Low-key Derby draw this year

With no major television programming to help carry it, the Derby draw for post positions will be a far less commercial affair than it has been in recent years, when it was held at the Fourth Street Live venue in downtown Louisville and televised live on a one-hour ESPN program late in the afternoon on the Wednesday before the Derby.

Instead, the draw for Derby 135 is set for noon Eastern Wednesday at the Marquee Village on the racetrack grounds. The same format that has been used in recent years - a random pill pull for drafting positions, with the selection of Derby posts by the respective horses' connections to follow - will be employed once again.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee and Jay Privman