03/20/2009 12:00AM

Rainfall timed badly for Quality Road


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - This has been the driest winter in south Florida in more than 100 years. There hasn't been a significant rainfall in the area in the longest time. At least not until Wednesday morning, when heavy showers put a damper on training throughout the region, and forced trainer Jimmy Jerkens to cancel his plan to work his Kentucky Derby prospect Quality Road at the Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach.

Jerkens is pointing Quality Road for the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 28, and had tentatively penciled in two more works for his star 3-year-old before the 1 1/8-mile race. Now Jerkens is hopeful the weather will clear out in time for him to get one strong breeze into Quality Road in preparation for his final Kentucky Derby prep.

"We'll be fine if I can get one good work into him before the Florida Derby," Jerkens said. "He's not a big, heavy horse, and he's fit enough coming out of his last race, which was almost like running a mile and one-eighth anyway."

Quality Road, coming off his easy victory in the one-mile Fountain of Youth on Feb. 28, will likely vie for favoritism with the undefeated Dunkirk in the Florida Derby.

"It will only be four weeks since his last start, and he's a pretty good work horse," said Jerkens. "I'd like to be able to work him Friday if the weather clears up, but I'll wait as long as it takes. I won't work him over a wet track. As long as I can get it in some time over the weekend, we should be fine. I just might have to adjust the distance and speed of the work the closer we get to the race. If it keeps raining and I have to wait too long to work him, then we might have to think about going somewhere else, although I'd really prefer to run him right here."

The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 4 would be the most likely backup option for Quality Road.

Stately Character may try big guns

Despite the imposing presence of both Quality Road and Dunkirk, trainer Gerald Procino said he is seriously considering running Stately Character in the Florida Derby. Stately Character, a son of Pleasant Tap, has already pulled off one upset against stakes company, winning his maiden at 2 in Calder's Foolish Pleasure Stakes.

The Foolish Pleasure remains the only victory to date for Stately Character, who has already started four times at this meet. He finished 47 lengths behind Dunkirk on Feb. 19 but bounced back to be second to the Wood-bound Al Khali under similar allowance conditions going 1 1/8 miles two weeks later.

"We know Dunkirk and Quality Road will be in there, but our colt, if he puts it all together in a race, is capable of competing with those horses," said Procino. "He's been a real headache getting him to this point. He had a bad trip in his first start this meet and bled two races back, but the distance is right for him. We'll wait and see who shows up before making a final decision. Right now it looks like it's going to be a short field, so I'd say we're leaning towards trying him in the Florida Derby."

A field of six to eight 3-year-olds is expected for the Florida Derby. Beethoven and Theregoesjojo are considered definite starters, while Sincero is also likely to run. Trainer Rick Dutrow is keeping his options open for Danger to Society, who has not started since finishing a disappointing seventh as the 9-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Holy Bull on Jan. 31, while Nick Zito said he is also considering running one of his 3-year-old prospects.

Biker Boy cruises

Zito will also have to start looking for some graded stakes opportunities for the immensely talented Biker Boy, who cruised to an easy victory over only two rivals in what amounted to little more than a paid workout in Wednesday's second race.

The victory was the fourth in five career starts for Biker Boy, a 4-year-old son of Came Home, who is owned by Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm and Richard Brand. Biker Boy ran seven furlongs in 1:22.30 over the sloppy track, just a second off the seven-furlong track record, despite being geared down through the final furlong by jockey John Velazquez.

Races moved off turf

Wednesday's downpour forced management to switch the afternoon's three scheduled grass races to the main track. It was the first time since the meet began on Jan. 3 that turf racing had to be canceled because of the weather.

Grass races were not carded on March 4 or 5 to allow for maintenance on the course, which has been parched by the lack of precipitation this winter.

Sumo's clunker baffles Motion

Trainer Graham Motion said he is still trying to figure out what happened to his 3-year-old prospect Sumo, who finished ninth in Saturday's Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby. Sumo had finished in front of Musket Man, the Tampa Bay Derby winner, when the pair met four weeks earlier over the same track in the Sam F. Davis Stakes.

"I can't give an explanation for why he ran so poorly on Saturday," Motion said."I'm just going to throw the race out, take him to Keeneland, work him over the Polytrack, and if he goes well, try him in the Lexington. He ran over the artificial surface once before, at Turfway Park, and he also ran poorly, but it was so cold that night the course was like powder. I can't not try him on Poly again because of that one aberration."