04/27/2009 12:00AM

Quality Road's Derby status still up in the air


ELMONT, N.Y. - It was a good news, bad news Sunday morning for Quality Road, whose status for Saturday's 135th Kentucky Derby remains an open question six days out from the race.

The good news was that trainer Jimmy Jerkens believes that Quality Road "looked like his old self" galloping 1 3/4 miles Sunday morning over the Belmont training track. The bad news was there was a tinge of blood emanating from the quarter crack on the colt's right front foot.

The presence of blood doesn't signify a soundness issue with Quality Road, who would be one of the favorites for the Derby based on victories in the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth. It just means there is some tissue that is still a little weak, according to Ian McKinlay, the equine hoof specialist who has been working on Quality Road's feet. McKinlay said he wasn't concerned about the blood because he had seen some serum from the crack earlier in the morning when he put in a plastic drain and a quarter crack patch two hours before the gallop.

"During that process you're liable to aggravate that live tissue but that's why the drain's there," said McKinlay, who also put in a new set of wires. "You've seen the purpose of the drain today. Tomorrow there's a very good chance he won't have any blood at all. He's sound, that's the main thing we're looking for."

The presence of blood was a bit disconcerting to trainer Jerkens.

"I would have liked to have seen no blood, that's for sure, but it didn't surprise me because he was still sensitive on the top," Jerkens said. "He's still sound. Like Ian said we got another 24 hours for it to even get better - or worse - but Ian seems to think with the drain in there was no way it would get worse."

Jerkens still plans to breeze Quality Road five furlongs Monday morning at Belmont, a move that should ultimately decide if he can make the race.

"If he takes one bad step anywhere, forget it," said Jerkens, who for a second day in a row was visited by owner Ed Evans.

"Tomorrow will tell most of the tale," McKinlay said. "If we got rid of the soreness, even if we had a tinge of blood tomorrow, I wouldn't be concerned."

After overcoming a quarter crack in his right hind foot that was suffered in the Florida Derby, Quality Road developed this new quarter crack on Thursday morning. After having Friday off, he jogged Saturday and came off the track with no problems.

After starting off his Sunday gallop a little slow, Quality Road picked it up down the backside and was very strong pulling exercise rider Juan Moreno coming through the stretch the second time.

"He starts off pokey and started pulling down the backside like he always does, I'm glad to see that," Jerkens said. "I didn't notice anything walking afterward."

Quality Road's quarter crack was to be treated Sunday with Thrushbuster, a liquid product used for drying out and disinfecting quarter cracks. Overnight, Quality Road's foot was to be done up in animalintex, which contains a mild antiseptic plus a natural poultice agent designed to draw any heat or infection from the area.