05/24/2010 11:00PM

Quality Road tunes up for Met Mile

Barbara D. Livingston
Quality Road will make his first start since the Donn in Monday's Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Quality Road's spring break is about to end, and all indications are he's ready to resume schooling his opponents in the older male division.

Away from the races since his 12 3/4-length romp in the Grade 1 Donn on Feb. 6,

Quality Road is scheduled to make his next start in Monday's Grade 1, $500,000 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park. On Tuesday, he completed preparations for that race with a sharp five-furlong workout in 59.66 seconds. The move could have been even faster had exercise rider Patty Barry asked the horse to run more than, say, the last 100 yards.

"I'm glad she didn't," trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Working about a length behind his 3-year-old stablemate Christmas for Liam, a recent maiden winner, Quality Road went in fractions of 12.38 seconds, 24.24, and 36.10 for three furlongs. Barry had a strong hold of Quality Road through the lane, though she allowed him to pick it up enough late to finish about a neck in front of Christmas for Liam at the wire.

Quality Road galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.99.

"We were looking for something in the minute range with a decent to moderate gallop-out," Pletcher said. "A couple of his gallop-outs before this were stronger than that, but we wanted to reel him in before the turn. I thought it all went very, very well."

Though the Met Mile will be Quality Road's first start in 114 days, Pletcher is banking on the colt's history of running well fresh as well as overall brilliance to carry the day. Last year, off a 128-day layoff, Quality Road won the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga, setting a track record of 1:13.74 for 6 1/2 furlongs.

"The one thing we're hoping for is we have him ready to run a big race off the bench and that we get the right kind of trip and surface that he likes," Pletcher said.

Weights for the Met Mile were due Wednesday. Entries for the Met will be taken Friday. Expected to enter against Quality Road are Convocation, Honest Man, Ironman Jon, Kensei, Le Grand Cru, Tizway, Warrior's Reward, and You and I Forever.

Le Grand Cru steady in Met Mile work

About 30 minutes after Quality Road worked, Le Grand Cru breezed seven furlongs in 1:28.65 over the main track. Under exercise rider Noel Wynter, Le Grand Cru, who began his work at the six-furlong pole, went the first half-mile in 50.28 and got his final three furlongs in 38.37.

"Certainly want him to be good and fit going against the best horses in the country," trainer Allen Jerkens said of Tuesday's work. "He'll have to do a little better for sure, with Quality Road in there."

Prior to Le Grand Cru's upset victory in last month's Westchester, Jerkens worked Le Grand Cru seven furlongs, then came with a sharp half-mile drill four days later. Jerkens hasn't yet decided whether he will blow the horse out before the Met.

At Calder on Tuesday, Gulfstream Park Handicap winner You and I Forever breezed four furlongs in 51 seconds.

Bribon pointing to True North

Bribon, last year's Met Mile winner, will make his next start in the Grade 2, $250,000 True North Handicap on June 5, Pletcher confirmed Tuesday.

The True North is at six furlongs, a distance Bribon has not run at since Oct. 3, 2008, when he finished third in an allowance race. Bribon won a six-furlong allowance race at Aqueduct on Nov. 1, 2007, running the distance in 1:08.92.

Trained then by Robert Ribaudo, Bribon has been trained by Pletcher this year following a private purchase last December by Derrick Smith. Bribon finished second in the Barbados Gold Cup in March before running fifth as the 4-5 favorite in the Westchester.

"He's a horse that's probably at his absolute very best going a mile; didn't want to run in the Met Mile against Quality Road," Pletcher said. "If he could find his niche as a come-from-behind sprinter, it could open up a lot of options for him."

Pegasus possible for Afleet Express

Afleet Express stamped himself as a 3-year-old to watch during the second half of the season with a monstrous 7 3/4-length victory in a first-level allowance race here Sunday. A son of Afleet Alex, Afleet Express ran seven furlongs in 1:21.72 and earned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure. Only Eskendereya, who earned a 109 in the Wood Memorial, has achieved a higher speed figure in the 3-year-old division.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said he would like to stretch the colt out around two turns for his next start and may look at the Grade 3, $200,000 Pegasus on June 19 at Monmouth Park as the spot to try it.

"I'd like to get him two turns so we could head to Saratoga with some experience at it," Jerkens said.

After winning his debut at Aqueduct, Afleet Express lost two allowance races during the winter at Gulfstream. Jerkens took him out of training after the horse could not rid himself of a nagging skin disease. Jerkens said the horse turned around in New York and he thought the horse was training sensationally entering Sunday's race.

"I'd have been disappointed if he didn't run something like that," Jerkens said. "Once he broke with the field, I thought something disastrous would have to happen for him not to win."