06/14/2009 11:00PM

Quality Road transferred to Pletcher

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Barbara D. Livingston
Quality Road took up residence in Pletcher's Belmont barn in the stall next to Dunkirk, whom Quality Road defeated in the Florida Derby.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher no longer has to admire Quality Road from afar.

On Monday, Pletcher became the new trainer of Quality Road, the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth winner, when owner Edward Evans moved that horse and five others from trainer Jimmy Jerkens' care and transferred them to other trainers.

In addition to Quality Road, Pletcher picked up the multiple graded-stakes-placed 3-year-old filly Casanova Move, most recently third in the Grade 1 Acorn. Several weeks ago, Pletcher was given the stakes-winning 4-year-old colt Storm Play from Evans.

On Monday, Evans moved Subprime, a maiden-winning 3-year-old filly to Tony Dutrow as well as three other fillies - Minishaft, Giant Mover, and Shafter - to Kiaran McLaughlin.

"Mr. Evans felt he needed to make a change for a lot of reasons, so that's what we did," Chris Baker, the farm manager for Evans, said by phone Monday morning from Evans' Spring Hill Farm near Casanova, Va.

Baker did not elaborate on those reasons, but added that "Mr. Evans was appreciative of the job Jimmy did for us." Jerkens said he trained for Evans for three years during which, according to Equibase statistics, he won 24 races from 130 starters and purse money totaling $2.2 million.

Jerkens declined comment on the split.

Quality Road won 3 of 4 starts for Jerkens, topped, of course, by the Florida Derby at Gulfstream on March 28. Quality Road was considered among the favorites for the Kentucky Derby, but was forced to miss that race as well as the Triple Crown series because of a quarter crack in his right front hoof.

Baker said Quality Road's inability to participate in the Triple Crown races was not a factor in the decision to take the horse away from Jerkens.

"That was circumstantial, unrelated to this decision," Baker said.

At 11:45 a.m. Monday, Quality Road took up residence in Pletcher's Belmont Park barn, coincidentally in the stall next to Dunkirk, whom Quality Road defeated in the Florida Derby. Dunkirk, who recently ran second in the Belmont Stakes, will be Quality Road's neighbor only through Saturday, at which time he is expected to ship to Ashford Stud in Kentucky to continue rehabilitation from surgery he underwent on June 9 to repair a condylar fracture in his left hind cannon bone. Pletcher said Dunkirk would be able to resume light training sometime in September.

"Everyone knows how much I always thought of Dunkirk, obviously he beat Dunkirk in the Florida Derby," Pletcher said of Quality Road. "Obviously, he's an extremely talented horse, we'll just have to see where he is in terms of his training and kind of get with Mr. Evans and his people and devise a strategy. Obviously, Jimmy's done a great job with him and we can only hope to do as well as he has. Coming off a Grade 1 win - you can't do any better than that."

Quality Road recently returned to the work tab on June 8, working three furlongs in 38.83 seconds. His connections are hopeful of having him ready to run the first weekend of August in either the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Aug. 1 or the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on Aug. 2 and subsequently the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 29.

American Dance targets Dwyer

While Pletcher tries to get Quality Road to the Jim Dandy, he plans on running the Evans-owned 3-year-old American Dance in the Grade 2, $200,000 Dwyer Stakes on July 4.

American Dance won a 1 1/8-mile allowance race by 6 1/4 lengths on May 21, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 97. On Sunday, American Dance worked four furlongs in 47.65 seconds over Belmont's main track.

"I thought his race the other day was sort of a breakthrough performance for him," Pletcher said. "I guess in a perfect world I would prefer that the Dwyer was a mile and an eighth instead of a mile and a sixteenth, but he's doing well, and it's time to step up and see where we are."

Others tentatively looking at the Dwyer include Convocation and Just Ben, who both looked impressive winning a maiden and allowance, respectively, on Belmont Stakes Day.

Hold Me Back returns to work tab

Hold Me Back, who won the Lane's End Stakes and was second in the Blue Grass before finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby, worked three furlongs in 37.07 seconds Monday morning at Belmont Park. It was his first breeze since the Derby and first since returning to trainer Bill Mott's care after receiving a freshening at WinStar Farm, whose proprietors own the colt.

Mott said that Hold Me Back could make his next start in the $750,000 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs on July 18. He could then return to the dirt in a race like the Travers, Mott said.

That would put him on a similar schedule as Court Vision, who last year finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby before finding a home on the turf. Though he lost the Colonial Turf Cup and Virginia Derby, and then finished sixth in the Travers, Court Vision became a Grade 1 winner on turf by year's end.

Court Vision has yet to win this year, most recently finishing fourth in the Manhattan, but could return in the Grade 1 United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park on July 4. Court Vision worked a half-mile in 50.30 seconds on Monday.

Kip Deville checks out fine

Kip Deville came out of his disappointing fourth-place finish in Sunday's Grade 3 Poker Stakes with "no mechanical issues," according to Michael Iavarone, whose IEAH Stables owns the 6-year-old horse.

Kip Deville set the pace in the Poker before being passed by Sailor's Cap in upper stretch. While Sailor's Cap went on to win the Poker by 1 1/4 lengths, Kip Deville faded to fourth, 4 1/2 lengths behind the winner.

Iavarone is hoping that the soft turf was the reason Kip Deville didn't fire, although he did win the 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile over a boggy Monmouth Park turf.

"He might have fooled us at Monmouth, where the turf course is cut really thin," Iavarone said.

Iavarone noted that the only times Kip Deville has run poorly at a mile in North America were the Woodbine Mile last September when the course was yielding and on Sunday. Iavarone said that if Kip Deville continues to train well he would be pointed to the Fourstardave at Saratoga on Aug. 2. That is also the target of Sailor's Cap, who returned from a 6 1/2-month layoff to win the Poker for trainer Jimmy Toner and the Team Valor International Stable.