Quality Road still possible for Preakness and Belmont

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.”

Ky Derby decision on Quality Road hangs in the breeze

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.”

Foot nearly healed, Quality Road likely to go in Ky Derby

Quality Road shown winning the Feb. 28 Fountain of Youth Stakes

Quality Road shown winning the Feb. 28 Fountain of Youth Stakes

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.

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