08/02/2009 11:00PM

Smashing return for Quality Road


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Rachel who?

Just when it appeared there wasn't a 3-year-old in the country who could touch Rachel Alexandra, along comes Quality Road, who returned from a four-month hiatus to register a record-setting 2 1/4-length victory over Capt. Candyman Can in Monday's $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga.

Quality Road, the likely favorite in this year's Kentucky Derby before being sidelined by a foot injury, covered 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.45. His final time shattered the course record set by Topsider 30 years earlier by nearly a full second. Quality Road, who was transferred from trainer Jimmy Jerkens to Todd Pletcher's barn by owner Edward P. Evans earlier this summer, set the record despite stumbling at the start and racing wide throughout the Grade 2 Amsterdam.

As expected, Everyday Heroes and Custom for Carlos contested a fast pace, dueling through fractions of 22.45 seconds and 44.95 with Quality Road recovering from the unlucky start to rate just behind the leaders. With Everyday Heroes drifting out on the lead, jockey John Velazquez was forced to angle Quality Road even wider while commencing his bid into the stretch. Quality Road surged to the front upon settling into the stretch, repulsed a bid from Capt. Candyman Can near midstretch, then gradually pulled away despite drifting a bit through the final furlong.

Capt. Candyman Can angled inside Quality Road after passing the eighth pole but proved no match for the winner, while finishing four lengths in front of Captain Cherokee. Custom for Carlos, Everyday Heroes, and Cabaret Cowboy rounded out the order of finish.

Quality Road, a homebred son of Elusive Quality, paid $3.50.

"Any time you run a horse for the first time with his potential, you want everything to go well, and we were hoping he'd run just as well for us as he had for Jimmy," said Pletcher. "He stumbled at the start and it took him a while to recover and get the position we'd hoped he'd be in. From there, he got the trip.

"Racing wide was not a concern," Pletcher added, "because with a big horse and the long stride he has, you want to let him do his thing and not have anything get in his way."

Pletcher has said all along that he was using the Amsterdam as a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Travers, and a potential matchup with Rachel Alexandra, on Aug. 29.

"I have tremendous respect for the filly, she's a phenomenon," said Pletcher, whose colt Munnings finished third to Rachel Alexandra the previous afternoon in the Haskell. "With a stable our size, chances are we're going to run into her somewhere along the line, and if we do, we'd like it to be with our best horse."