11/13/2017 8:04AM

Sparkman: Raising a Cup to Quality Road

Barbara D. Livingston
Caledonia Road, a daughter of Quality Road, wins the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 4.

Although established stars Medaglia d’Oro and More Than Ready both sired two of this year’s Breeders’ Cup winners, no stallion benefited more from the event than Quality Road.

Quality Road’s daughter Caledonia Road probably earned a champion 2-year-old filly Eclipse statuette with her victory in the Juvenile Fillies, and another daughter Abel Tasman almost certainly clinched a 3-year-old filly championship with her closing second to the older Forever Unbridled in the Distaff.

Three out of Quality Road’s five Grade 1 winners have been fillies, but he is also perfectly capable of siring talented males, as exemplified by his 5-year-old gelded son Spring Quality, who scored last Saturday in the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct.

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Bred in Virginia by the late Edward P. “Ned” Evans, Quality Road showed championship ability on the racetrack, but never quite sealed the deal on his own Eclipse Award. Easy winner of his only start as a 2-year-old for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, he was beaten on his 3-year-old debut, but then scored easy victories in both the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby in track-record time to become the favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

Forced to miss the Derby by quarter cracks, he was switched to trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn. He returned with another easy win, in the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga, but that 6 1/2-furlong race was not sufficient preparation for the 10-furlong Travers, and he faded to third behind champion Summer Bird. He put up a much better fight against Summer Bird in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, succumbing by a hard-fought length. Scheduled to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Quality Road had to be withdrawn at the start after he violently refused to enter the starting gate.

Quality Road was a huge horse at more than 17 hands, and the gate had always been a challenge. But he recovered from the trauma to beat his own track-record time in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream and win the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont in 1:33.11 at 4. A five-pound weight allowance in the Grade 1 Whitney and was just enough to allow Blame to beat Quality Road by a head, but the big colt bounced back to win the Grade 1 Woodward by almost five lengths. Given another shot at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Quality Road ran the only bad race of his career, fading to last after pressing the pace.

Retired to Lane’s End at a fee of $35,000, the son of Elusive Quality out of Kobla, a Strawberry Road full sister to champion Ajina, Quality Road had plenty of pedigree, and the looks to match. His first crop started well, with Blofeld (out of Storm Minstrel, by Storm Cat) winning the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes and Hootenanny (More Hennessy, by Hennessy) becoming his first Grade 1 winner in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Those first-crop juveniles, though, failed to deliver on their promise, and it was not until his third crop came to the races last year that Quality Road proved he belonged among the top sires in the country.

Klimt (Inventive, by Dixie Union) led the charge, winning the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, but Abel Tasman (Vargas Girl, by Deputy Minister) is his best runner, adding the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, Acorn Stakes, and CCA Oaks to her victory in the Grade 1 Starlet last year.

Spring Quality, who scored his first graded win in the Red Smith, is from his first crop, but raced only once at 2 and once at 4, winning both races, before winning three of seven starts this year, including the listed Robellino Stakes. Spring Quality is the fifth foal and second stakes winner out of Spring Star, by Deputy Minister, whose third foal, Holiday Star, by Harlan’s Holiday, won two editions of the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes.

Spring Quality is a fourth-generation homebred for George Strawbridge Jr.’s Augustin Stable, which acquired his fourth dam, Fast Approach, by First Landing, in the 1970s. Half-sister to the top-class racemare Helen Jennings, Fast Approach produced Grade 1 winner First Approach, by Northern Fling, Grade 2 winner Last Approach, by Far Out East, and Grade 3 winner Summer Fling, by Nijinsky II, for Strawbridge. First Approach, in turn, is dam of Grade 2 winner Alice Springs, by Val de l’Orne, Spring Star’s dam.

Quality Road has now sired 23 stakes winners from 277 foals age 3 and up, a healthy 8.3% stakes winners to foals ratio. With two likely 2017 champions to his credit, and ranking No. 11 on the general sire list, Quality Road has confirmed his place among the nation’s top stallions.