On Saturday, Kentucky Derby hopeful Quality Road jogged the Belmont Park track and his slight quarter crack appeared stable. So it seemed, all systems were go for the big race next Saturday.
But after a mile and three-quarter Sunday gallop, the crack on his right front foot emitted a tinge of blood.
And that was enough to get trainer Jimmy Jerkens thinking about doing the unthinkable: scratching the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth winner. It’s not that Quality Road didn’t look great on the track, but Jerkens said that the Derby is no place to send a horse who is at anything less than his best.
“He galloped the way he usually does,” Jerkens told Joe Drape of the New York Times. “I would have been more optimistic with no blood.”
So it all comes down to today.
Quality Road is scheduled to breeze five-eighths of a mile on the Belmont Park training track. If it goes well, then Quality Road will be in the Churchill Downs starting gate on Saturday, and Jerkens might be smelling roses a few minutes later.
But if the colt seems weakened at all by the crack, then the plane headed from New York City to Louisville on Tuesday will leave without him.
“He needs to work to our liking and come out perfect,” said the cautious Jerkens. “If he takes one bad step — forget it.”