Florida Derby winner Quality Road remains a possibility for the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, but will not run in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby due to a sore cracked hoof.
The 3-year-old colt missed a scheduled 5-furlong workout today at Belmont Park because of the injury to his right front hoof.
“It’s not terribly bad, but it’s not right,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens told USA Today. “He’s really sensitive on the quarter.”
Hoof specialist Ian McKinlay, who is working on Quality Road’s foot, is optimistic that the colt may compete in Pimlico’s Preakness Stakes on May 16.
“If this thing calms right down,” McKinlay said, “he’ll be back on track.”
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.”
The hoof specialist who patched up Quality Road’s quarter crack this week made a video explaining exactly what he did.
Ian McKinlay inserted a drain inside the Kentucky Derby hopeful’s patch to allow any blood or fluid to flush out. It is not a procedure McKinlay normally performs on a quarter crack, but he did it as a precautionary measure because the stakes are high.
If Quality Road misses any training, it may cost him the Kentucky Derby.
McKinlay, who also worked to solve Big Brown’s feet problems last year, filmed the procedure to educate other hoof specialists and promote his company Tenderhoof Solutions. The video, which is narrated by McKinlay, was released on Fran Jurga’s Hoof Blog Thursday and Quality Road is not the horse being worked on, but he had the same procedure.
By reading the comments from hoof repair specialist Ian McKinlay, the quickly-improving quarter crack injury plaguing Florida Derby winner Quality Road is unlikely to keep the colt out of training or to miss the Kentucky Derby.
Numerous reports on web sites and blogs this week broke the news that Quality Road developed a quarter crack, which was noticed after the March 28 Florida Derby. The crack was patched before trainer Jimmy Jerkens sent the horse north from Florida to his new training base at Belmont Park.
Many of the stories left open the question of the severity of the injury and cast doubt on whether Quality Road would run in the Kentucky Derby, since a bad quarter crack could cause the colt to miss vast amounts of training. But Fran Jurga’s Hoof Blog was one of the first to find out through McKinlay what everybody wanted to know: Would the quarter crack knock Quality Road out of the Kentucky Derby?
McKinlay, a New Jersey-based hoof specialist who Jerkens summoned to attend to Quality Road’s foot, told Jurga in a story published on Monday that the injury is relatively minor. When he arrived at Belmont, McKinlay pulled off the old patch, cleaned up the crack, then laced it with steel sutures.
“The whole thing should be over by this weekend and he’ll be on his way,” said McKinlay, who last year worked on Big Brown’s hoof problems in both front feet and the quarter crack Big Brown developed leading up to the Belmont Stakes.
McKinlay said Quality Road’s injury does not compare to what Big Brown went through. Although Big Brown had foot problems, he still competed in all three Triple Crown races.
“This is no Big Brown-type of situation,” McKinlay added.
Quality Road impressively won both the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby this spring to become one of the Kentucky Derby future book favorites. If he starts, Quality Road would enter the Derby gate with consecutive Beyer Speed Figures in excess of 110 in his previous two races.
And that’s significant because the last six runnings of the Derby were all won by colts who ran less than 110 on the Beyer scale.
On Wednesday, Quality Road galloped at Belmont Park and McKinlay applied a new patch with a drain for any blood to channel out. When horses have injuries, the area heats up indicating inflammation. But McKinlay said the crack was “ice cold” when Quality Road came back to the barn.
“That thing looked perfect. He went to the track, galloped, came back and looked great,” he told the Bloodhorse. “If the foot is cold tomorrow, it’s a done deal; it’s behind us.”
The drain that McKinlay added to his patching technique is not something he normally does with a quarter crack. But since it is imperative that Quality Road not miss any training, McKinlay modified his patching procedure.
“It’s probably overkill, but why take any chances?” McKinlay said.
Jerkens plans to give Quality Road his first workout since the Florida Derby on Friday or Saturday depending on the weather.
Information in this story from Fran Jurga’s Hoof Blog was used with permission.
Quality Road, who is coming off back-to-back wins in the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, is the Kentucky Derby future book favorite at two of Las Vegas most prominent race & sports books.
After opening Quality Road at 200-to-1 several months ago, Wynn Las Vegas slashed the price on the son of Elusive Quality to just 5-to-1 after the colt ran two monster Beyer Speed Figures. Down the street and around the corner at the Las Vegas Hilton, oddsmakers Jay Kornegay, Ed Salmons and Charlie Ludlow are offering up Quality Road at a paltry 4-to-1, according to the last published futures sheets updated at both places on March 30.
The numbers are low, but Quality Road deserves the respect. In the last 15 years, I can’t recall a colt posting back-to-back Beyer Speed Figures exceeding 110 in their two races leading into the Derby. By contrast, last years wonder-horse Big Brown earned just a 106 Beyer in his Florida Derby.
Originally, Quality Road was awarded a 103 Beyer when he defeated Dunkirk in the March 28 Florida Derby, but the Beyer team upgraded it to 111 after further review. In the Feb. 28 Fountain of Youth, Quality Road ran a 113 Beyer.
Quality Road’s Beyer figures are significant because the last six runnings of the Derby were all won by colts who ran less than 110 on the Beyer scale.
By sheer good fortune, I have a ticket on Quality Road, who I bet at 75-to-1 without even knowing who he was. On Dec. 20, I watched Pioneerof the Nile win the Grade I Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park. In the Daily Racing Form, Bob Baffert was quoted before the race as saying that POTN was his Derby horse.
The win virtually ensured that Pioneerof the Nile would have enough earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby gate, and I thought who’s better than Baffert at getting a horse ready to run his eyeballs out on the first Saturday in May.
Of course, I also considered the chance that Baffert’s horse might get injured, but at the time all the talk was about how safe synthetic surfaces were for horses. So after the Cash Call Futurity, I zoomed down to Las Vegas Hilton, but before I got to the window I saw Vic Vivio, who I worked with for years at the Imperial Palace.
Back in 2000, Vivio, who is now a supervisor at Palace Station, got huge odds on Fusaichi Pegasus in the future book and won more than $5,000 when Fu Peg strolled home in the Derby. At the Hilton on Dec. 20, Vivio told me that he had recently bet Quality Road — who I had never heard of at the time — based on the 101 Beyer Speed Figure he earned while breaking his maiden in a sprint on Nov. 29 at Aqueduct. And Quality Road’s odds at the time Vivio got down were 125-to-1.
I figured what the heck? This guy Vivio has been around the horse game for awhile, maybe he learned a thing or two about the ponies. So, along with Pioneerof the Nile at 40-to-1, I also bet Quality Road at 75-to-1.
And as long as Qualilty Road and Pioneerof the Nile get into the Derby gate, I see the futures as an opportunity to turn Kentucky Derby into a positive advantage race for me. So, I plan to wager on other contenders at decent pari-mutel odds because funny things can happen in a 20-horse field with a hundred thousand drunken screaming fans.
But Vivio, who I spoke to a couple of days ago, will absolutely not hedge.
In fact, Quality Road is the only Derby horse Vivio bet, and he likes him so much that he also loaded up on the colt in the pari-mutuel future book exactas.
“I’m just going to root for him to win,” Vivio said.
And, you know what, he just might.
Quality Road’s 4-1/4 length win in Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth on Feb. 28 earned him a 113 Beyer Speed Figure, which ties for the highest Beyer with I Want Revenge’s Gotham Stakes performance. Both of these horses sat within a length of the leader then drew off in the stretch, leading some handicappers to believe they ran the same type of race.
But I don’t agree.
Quality Road stalked the pace in the one mile Fountain of Youth Stakes that was run in a quick 45-2/5 seconds for the half mile and 1:09-2/5 seconds for 6 furlongs. In the March 7 Gotham Stakes, I Want Revenge crawled in comparison.
The 1-1/16th mile Gotham fractions were 48-2/5 seconds for the half and 1:12-3/5 seconds for 6 furlongs. According to my pace numbers, which take track variant into consideration, Quality Road ran 10 lengths faster early than I Want Revenge.
Yes, the Fountain of Youth was run at one turn, while the Gotham Stakes was two turns, but that shouldn’t account for a 10-length pace difference.
Of course, I Want Revenge finished faster than Quality Road, but he had an almost ideal scenario of an extremely slow early pace with no traffic to fight through. So, since I Want Revenge didn’t exert himself early, he had plenty of punch left for the stretch.
I Want Revenge, who is trained by Jeff Mullins, is obviously talented, but I can virtually guarantee you that this horse won’t experience such a soft pace again until The Belmont Stakes in June. Quality Road was much more impressive, but trainer James Jerkens needs to continue working to harness this contender’s brilliant speed or else he’ll die in the Churchill Downs stretch.
Pioneerof the Nile, trained by Bob Baffert, has never cracked 100 on the Beyer scale, but his stretch kick in the Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7 stamped him as a strong Derby contender. He’s scheduled to run against a small field in the 1-1/16th mile San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday.
The only knock on Pioneerof the Nile is that he also went slow early in the Lewis Stakes, but he is not a front runner. Rather, this colt sat far off the pace and overcame a troubled trip.
Kentucky Derby pari-mutuel betting is open through Sunday afternoon when the pools close and odds are locked in. This is the second of three Derby pools and Churchill Downs is also offering both Derby exacta betting and Kentucky Oaks wagering this weekend.
One of this year’s overly-hyped colts who does not look like a strong Derby horse to me is The Pamplemousse. This Julio Canani trainee won 1-1/8 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 28, but was loose on the lead and went six lengths slower than Quality Road through the first six furlongs. The Pamplemousse, who earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure, set an OK pace considering the Sham is two turns, but his finishing time showed that he is not yet Derby material. This horse will need to run much better next time to get my money on Derby Day.
Lastly, Imperial Council moved from eighth place to second in the Gotham Stakes, but didn’t gain any ground on I Want Revenge. However, trainer Shug McGaughey has this colt going in the right direction and his Gotham effort shows that Imperial Council has the ability to run well at the Triple Crown distances.
It is true that any of these colts could get injured at any time and be pulled from the Derby. So getting decent odds to cover the risk is essential.
Anything over 10-to-1 on #17 Pioneerof the Nile seems fair. While I would need 15/1 on both #13 Imperial Council and #18 Quality Road for a bet.
As for The Pamplemousse, throw him out until he shows that he can win while leading on a fast pace that is combined with a strong finishing kick.