08/03/2009 11:00PM

Travers next up for Quality Road

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Chip Woolley spends some time with Mine That Bird on Tuesday at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - On Monday morning, the Saratoga barn area was abuzz over Rachel Alexandra and her jaw-dropping performance the previous afternoon in the Grade 1 Haskell. On Tuesday morning, Quality Road became the focal point of similar praise following his record-setting performance Monday afternoon in the Grade 2 Amsterdam.

Both 3-year-olds may now be headed for what would be the most anticipated showdown of the year if they were to meet here Aug. 29 in the Grade 1 Shadwell Travers.

While Rachel Alexandra's connections remain noncommittal regarding the Travers, trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed that if all goes well, Quality Road is definitely headed to the midsummer Derby.

"Mr. Evans [owner-breeder Edward P. Evans] always felt that the race he wanted Quality Road to be ready for was the Travers, and everything we've done preparing him for his return has been with that goal in mind," Pletcher said Tuesday. "At this point, he seems to have come out of his race very well. He's bright, alert, and sound, and the race doesn't appear to have been very taxing on him. While stretching out from six and one-half furlongs to a mile and one-quarter in the Travers off just one prep is not an easy task, I think he's the type of horse who can handle it because he's so tactical and his mindset is so good."

Although the magnitude of Quality Road's performance returning from a four-month layoff to win the Amsterdam despite a wide trip is indisputable, his track-record time of 1:13.45 has been questioned by Andrew Beyer and Associates. Beyer said methodology used by Randy Moss, who times races electronically from video, sets the final time of the Amsterdam at 1:14.70, with only a .05 margin of error.

As a result, Beyer has awarded Quality Road a 103 Beyer Speed Figure for the Amsterdam based on a final time of 1:14.70 - well below the colt's career bests of 113 and 111 earlier this year for victories in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby. Beyer said Quality Road would have earned a 119 Beyer using the track's official time of 1:13.45.

Pletcher said the speed figure service that he uses timed the race off video and got a final time just under 1:14.

"Either way you slice it, in my mind he still broke the track record," Pletcher said.

The old record of 1:14 2/5 was set by Topsider on Aug. 1, 1979.

NYRA officials said that after hand-timing the race and hand-timing the replay, they are standing by the official time as being correct.

Mine That Bird, Summer Bird arrive at Spa

Two of Quality Road's prospective rivals in the Travers, Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, have settled into their new quarters at the stakes barn following long van rides from West Virginia and New Jersey.

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird was the first of the Triple Crown winners to arrive, checking in shortly after 3 p.m. Monday following a seven-hour trip from Mountaineer Park with trainer Chip Woolley at the wheel. Woolley wasted little time getting Mine That Bird acclimated to his new surroundings, sending the little gelding out to the track to gallop once around shortly after 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

"He looked good out there this morning," Wooley said. "I thought he started off a hair flat, but he got into the bridle the last half-mile and came back to the barn bright eyed."

Woolley said Mine That Bird will gallop two miles on a daily basis beginning Wednesday, with no definite work scheduled mapped out as yet leading into the Travers.

Mine That Bird is coming off a somewhat disappointing third-place finish in Saturday's West Virginia Derby.

"I was pleased with my horse's effort, he laid it on the line again, but I wasn't pleased with the race," Woolley said. "He needs to run his specific style of race, like he did in the Derby and Preakness, and we need to get him settled early and get him back to that style for the Travers."

Summer Bird and trainer Tim Ice rolled into the stakes barn at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, following a five-hour trip from Monmouth Park. Like Woolley, Ice is visiting Saratoga for the first time this summer.

Summer Bird finished second, six lengths behind Rachel Alexandra, in the Haskell after forcing the pace throughout. Despite being soundly beaten, the Belmont Stakes winner earned a career-best 106 Beyer.

"I thought Kent [Desormeaux] put up a great ride in the Haskell," Ice said. "We felt we needed to be close up, because the track was playing to speed and he just took him up there easy. In fact, my horse showed a new dimension by being able to lay that close. He had also showed more speed in the Belmont as well, but Kent did a good job taking him back that day. Now I am very excited about running him a mile and one-quarter in the Travers."

Ice said Summer Bird will follow his regular routine, which is to walk for four days after a race and will not visit the track for the first time here until Friday.

Busy morning for stakes runners

Tuesday morning was another busy one on both the main track and at the Oklahoma turf course, with large work tabs and prominent names. Among them was Cat Moves, who worked four furlongs in 48.31 seconds in preparation for her role as the likely favorite in Saturday's Grade 1 Test Stakes.

Cat Moves was among the first horses on the track following the renovation break and was extremely eager right off the bat, giving her rider all he could handle galloping down the stretch prior to breaking off at the half-mile pole.

"She was on it this morning," trainer Anthony Dutrow said. "That's not unusual for her."

Cat Moves is perfect in three starts, including a game three-quarter-length victory over Light Green in the Grade 1 Prioress during which she had to overcome a poor start and wide trip.

"I don't know if she's capable of showing anything more than she showed in the Prioress," Dutrow said. "It took everything she had to win that day and to duplicate a performance like that in the Test will not be easy to do."

Joining Cat Moves on Tuesday's tab was Pretty Prolific, who worked four furlongs in 47.41 for trainer James Baker. She also is expected for the Test along with First Passage, Heart Ashley, Olde Glamour, and Reforestation.

Other notable workers here Tuesday included Gozzip Girl (five furlongs in 1:02.90) and Fanny Freud (five furlongs in 1:01.05) on the main track, Parading (four furlongs in 47.44) on the training track, and Grand Couturier (four furlongs in 49.44) over the Oklahoma turf course.

Grand Couturier was one of 14 horses nominated for the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational on Aug. 15, a race that he's won each of the last two summers.

At Penn National, Fabulous Strike worked five furlongs in 58.40 for his appearance in Sunday's Grade 2 Vanderbilt. Fabulous Strike was scheduled to van here Wednesday.

Dance Gal Dance impresses in win

Lost in the excitement of Quality Road's comeback Monday were victories by Dance Gal Dance in the $73,000 Fleet Indian Stakes and Strike Again in the $75,150 Tap the Admiral, which was decided over a yielding turf course.

Dance Gal Dance was particularly impressive, stretching out to seven furlongs for the first time and turning back an early challenge from 8-5 favorite Doremifasollatido en route to a 2 1/4-length triumph. The win was the sixth in eight career starts for the New York-bred daughter of Disco Rico, a homebred owned by Rosalie Dirico and trained by Tim Ritvo.

"Rajiv [Maragh] rode a great race," Ritvo said. "We decided the rail was a little dead and that it was best to stay off the fence and let anybody who wanted to rush up do so inside us, and that's exactly how it played out. She's just a trooper and a tough horse to race against, because if you try to go with her you can't finish and if you let her go she's home free."

Dance Gal Dance's victory was the second on the day for Ritvo who will send out Finallymadeit in Saturday's Grade 1 Whitney.