Ky Derby Trail: Road to the Roses

The last Saturday in November is NYRA's farewell to grade I and grade II racing, with the running of the Cigar Mile (gr. I) and the grade II Remsen and Demoiselle Stakes for 2-year-olds. But last year, there was a buzz in the air that had nothing to do with any of those three races.

Read the entire column here.


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steve this horse a glorified sprinter,  QUALITY ROAD.

02 Mar 2009 11:09 AM

I will reserve comment until QR runs around 2 turns.  But he is obviously a talented horse.  Thought The Pamplemousse was very impressive.  I don't think he needs the lead but wonder how he will do with a crowded contentious field of horses.  I think Baffert will run Zenzational (or another speedster) with POTN in SA Derby to keep it interesting.

02 Mar 2009 11:43 AM

Great article as usual...You didn't comment on the Rebel as a prep, or does that fall under the same category as the Ark. Derby?

02 Mar 2009 12:16 PM

I also have a hard time backing a horse by Elusive Quality. Yet as the article points out, the horse has a female line with lots of stamina. Plus I am still eating my words from Smarty's success. So, while I won't be putting up any money on Quality Road, I hesitate to throw him out completely. Funny Cide was another one. Who would think that a horse by a seven furlong specialist like Distorted Humor could win the Derby? It seems like all the old rules have changed! By the way, nice summary rating the Derby Preps.

02 Mar 2009 12:29 PM
Steve Haskin

Rolo, I'll take your word for it. At least he's glorified.

02 Mar 2009 12:44 PM

The Pamp is most certainly a very good prospect after his win, but even after his performance, i keep on thinking, this horse needs to run with a better field. Running against maiden winners and horses that don't show up with their A game is nothing special no matter how it looks, and that's exacly what he did. TTP did not fire his best shot when he had just about no time to train over the track and flying in only two days before the race, so you can't say O well we beat a stakes horse when that horse most likely did not give his best effort. MHS was not ready to face a horse as classy as the top two, and could he still be a good horse, yes, but he just won against maidens and you expect him to jump to seasoned stakes competition and be able to stick with them his first time out? The Pamp also had things pretty much his own way, yes he set good fractions, but let you know he was slowing down the whole way, trust me i did the math. I wonder what will happen when he runs into some other speed horses like Mr. F, OF, or SC, that can look him in the eye the whole way around. If he passes that and out last them, what's he going to do when a barricade of closers and stalkers like Dunkirk, POTN, SB, etc., come flying at him, which is what will happen on derby day. Will he keep fighting or will he falter? We'll get to see some of that in the SA Derby, and honestly i think a closer like SB or POTN will be able to real him in.

02 Mar 2009 12:54 PM

If Quality Road can post another Beyer over 100 in his next race that will give him 3 in 4 races and back to back Graded Stakes wins.  Should he win his next race you would have to consider him one of the favorites in Derby coming in 3rd off a layoff.

02 Mar 2009 1:06 PM
Steve Haskin

Scott, yes, these are the major preps. Nothing to say about the Rebel other than its a prep for the Ark. Derby. Only one prep per track.

02 Mar 2009 1:12 PM
Karen in Indiana

Here's my non-scientific watch list, in no particular order:

Take the Points & General Quarters - sentimental picks, love their back stories

Mr. Hot Stuff - big Tiznow fan

Beethoven - like Sky Mesa & want his progeny to do well

Russell Road - like that he's been running well and isn't from a big horse state, one for the little guy

The Pamplemousse - love watching him run!!! and his trainer is a hoot.

02 Mar 2009 1:14 PM
Karen in Texas

Quality Road seems to have talent, even if he isn't able to stretch out and go a distance.

If Take the Points is prepping for the Derby, why ship him to California to run on an artificial surface? Do his connections see an advantage in doing this rather than keeping him on dirt? I, too, thought he ran well under the circumstances.

02 Mar 2009 1:28 PM

Terrific article.  I don't recall any other current 3-yr old being spoken about in such glowing terms as Quality Road is here, and it seems like it's shades of Canonero with The Pamplemousse.

02 Mar 2009 1:38 PM

Steve, since Garcia took off QR for Taqarub  - why didn't Mig get back on instead of JV? I hope Mig still gets back on as musical jockey saddles soon commences...

02 Mar 2009 1:41 PM


What did you think of Affirmatif?

If I were Pletcher I would run him in the Lanes End then the Blue Grass.  What would you do or would you keep him on the turf?

02 Mar 2009 1:50 PM

Steve, Its interesting to read that the Pamp has such an off stride after watching him run on Saturday. The camera angle gives us the side view and I tell you what... I didn't see much boggling going on. He seemed fluid and I fell in love with his long stride. He seemed to just eat up the track. Of course I hadn't given this horse much thought before this race and didn't pay much attention to his awkward stride.

02 Mar 2009 1:51 PM

The Pample's high stepping action reminds me of Georgie Boy.  If you listen to Georgie's Boy's races, there are people screaming when he's high stepping in the stretch.  It is exciting and entertaining to watch, but I wonder about the extra toll on the body.

02 Mar 2009 1:53 PM
Derby Mass

The Louisiana Derby is getting half the horses on just about any bodys derby top ten, so it looks like the Tampa Bay Derby and Rebel wont have deep quality fields outside of one or two.

Theregoesjojo was closing out of a bad 2 post and is bred to go farther than Quality Road.  He looks to be Dunkirks toughest competition in the Florida Derby especially if QR goes to AQU, and Beethoven can run late if the pace gets to hot.

The thing about this year is that so far every region has at least one horse.

WEST/ Pioneerof the Nile, Chocolate Candy and The Pamplemousse.

EAST/ Haynesfield, Mr. Fantasy


MIDWEST/ West Side Bernie

DUBAI/ Desert Party, Vineyard Haven

Notice: I think West Side Bernie could end up in the Lane's End, and he ran better than noted in the Holy Bull from the eleven post, and beat recent closing 3rd place finisher of the Fountain of Youth Beethoven. The New York breds can't be put down b/c they have done everything right as of now. And, the Santa Anita Derby could end up really strong with many dynamics. Speed- Pamplemousse / Stalk- Chocolate Candy / Closer- Pioneerof the Nile. Every horse has an equal chance because of that. Its the Derby and anything can happen, and its seemingly impossible to interpert, but thats my opinion.

02 Mar 2009 2:03 PM
Derby Mass

Karen in Texas, the connections think the surface suits him better because of his pedigree and they are probaly avoiding the superstars every circuit seems to have.

GP- Dunkirk

OP- Old Fashioned

FG- Friesan Fire/ Silver City/ lots of depth

AQU- Mr. Fantasy(Real Deal)

02 Mar 2009 2:07 PM

Hello Steve, Glad to see you report on timing splits at Gulfstream for the FOY. The reasoning for the mile fractions, while understandable, belies the fact they have had problems with times the entire meet. Those assessing times in their handicapping for future races would be advised to use caution.

In regard to the Fountain of Youth, it was certainly an impressive performance by Quality Road regardless of the track bias, especially as quite a number of horses that should have benefited from its speed favoring tendencies folded the tent early. He surely figures to improve and move forward of that effort. I agree with your assessment that he was drawing off from Theregoesjojo, however, that colt had come from way off the pace and was at least six wide on the turn before flattening out – a move that hasn’t been successful the entire meet. While Jerkens had Quality Road geared for this race, McPeek clearly stated prior that his horse was not fully tightened up and that he was using the FOY as a steeping stone. His enthusiastic post-race comments would seem to indicate how happy he was with jojo’s trip. The rematch should be interesting as both look like Derby contenders.

What happened: You listed a lot of preps and omitted one of the most anticipated races on the Derby trail – The Gotham. Are you going to do a preview on that race this week?

One more quick question: I had mentioned to you on an earlier post that the Euro race at Kempton was starting to take some shape, including a few Triple Crown nominees from the John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien stables. Since they have a guaranteed starting spot in the Derby, and we have already covered the Dubai horses, can you get any information on the potential starters over there?

Thanks for the updates.

02 Mar 2009 2:12 PM

BittelRoad I am with you ! Affirmatif was very impressive and I can't wait to see him in the Lanes End it makes perfect sense.  Let me know if you hear anything.

02 Mar 2009 2:15 PM

Karen in Texas, TTP needs graded earnings and Pletcher thought the Sham was easier spot than FOY.  TTP has already run on dirt.

02 Mar 2009 2:17 PM
Karen in Texas

Thank you, Derby Mass and Barbara. I thought the TTP people were probably avoiding the current rising stars at the mentioned tracks, but to take him off dirt (when they know he does well on it) still seems odd to me.

02 Mar 2009 2:45 PM

Karen in Texas, TTP went to Calif to get graded earnings.  He has won in the mud and on a fast track. His connections have a horse in the Gotham and the FOY was too short.  He has grass pedigree and seems to adjust to what ever track they send him to.  With Pletcher sending Dunkirk to the Florida Derby I think they wanted to avoid conflict.  This horse can run with the best of them and I think after training at Santa Anita for 4 weeks up to the SA Derby he will be right there with POTN, The Mousse and Chocolate Candy.  He has something a lot of horses have lost "heart"

02 Mar 2009 3:36 PM

I thought the Mousse looked very professional, but I just have my doubts about him getting 1 1/4 faster than some others. I really liked Quality Road's race, but a one-turn mile? Right now I'm sticking with Pioneerof The Nile even though he hasn't run on dirt.

02 Mar 2009 3:52 PM

Great Article, Steve.  Both Quality Road and The Pamplemousse were impressive and it's for sure The Pamp will rouse the crowd.  He is a character and has great personality as a runner.  But I was really impressed with Take the Points, especially after reading that wonderful article about him on Bloodhorse.  He's a sentimental favorite for sure.  I have to reserve judgement - there are still too many races to run and I fell for Old Fashioned and Stardom Bound last year.  I'm just not ready to switch horses yet.  Also, wanted to say how much I enjoyed the article about Unbridled.  What a great walk down memory lane - and  who knew he would leave such a lasting mark.  Thanks, again, Steve for your insight.

02 Mar 2009 4:08 PM

Old Fashioned hasn't worked out since his race.  going on 15 days.  Not good this time of the year. By Unbridled's Song they get the ouchies.

02 Mar 2009 4:58 PM
Dreamer's Mom

helsbelles-if that is his comfortable stride, then no extra toll on him.  If he's "ouching" somewhere, then, for sure, it's taking a toll because he's compensating to be comfortable. Not saying something is bugging him, just making a point.  We had a horse that ran with his nose almost to the ground and another that ran like a giraffe with his head way up in the air.  That's just how they ran and both ran a long time.  No aches, no pains, just odd.

02 Mar 2009 5:33 PM
Umatilla Joe

Quality Road will be a handful for all those taking him on. He survived the early heat and drew off. Strawberry Road will help him get the trip.

02 Mar 2009 6:14 PM

Does anyone know what Dunkirk's thorograph and Ragozin numbers were?

02 Mar 2009 6:17 PM

Very good point CraigJ... not a good sign.  Let me save you some money pass on any Unbridled Song son.  People are talking about 10 of them this year... watch how many hit the board at the Derby.  Last 10 years 0 !  What does that tell you. Very good 1 1/8 horses but 1 1/4 forget it.

02 Mar 2009 6:23 PM
Mike Relva


The fact of OF possibly not working in 15 days,I'm not concerned at all! I'm sure he will be ready to go.

02 Mar 2009 6:57 PM


I enjoyed reading your column. Keep up the good work. The columm on the best prep races was very informative and true. I feel the same way you do regarding synthetics.

02 Mar 2009 8:39 PM
Brian A.

I know this is tottaly off subject, but how is Indian Blessing doing?

02 Mar 2009 9:03 PM

Good point Craig J these good colts have a regular work tab between races. He may not carry weight well and needs the time between races but this time of year they have to step up and take the grind.

02 Mar 2009 9:04 PM

Steve- good article by you as usual.Quality Road had several things going his way on Saturday in the FoY. He was making his 3rd carreer start,his 2nd of 2009.I think he need his 09 dbu and if he was any good he would have improved off that effort-which he did.He had very goods works coming into the FoY and just as important is the weight break that he got from the rest of the field.He was getting 2lbs- 8lbs from other good 3yrs.When I saw all the above,I know he was the winner,but the 114lbs weight he carried made me feel so much more confident that he would win. I went to OTB and put in all types of bets with him on top-then sit back and wait.Theregoesjojo is talented horse but I believe that Quality Road will prove to be the better of the two while on the KDby trail.

As to everyone going ga ga over the Pamplemousse-not me yet- I need to see more of him against real compitetion.Other than TP horse non of the others in The Sham really measured up.I am also not going ga ga over Dunkirk yet either.Finally I think Beethoven will be dangerous in the upcoming preps

02 Mar 2009 9:17 PM

I can't wait for Old Fashioned to run again so we don't have to hear about him anymore.  If Old Fashioned won the Derby I would NEVER bet on another race ever again.

02 Mar 2009 9:22 PM
Steve Haskin

mg, as I said earlier, I listed only the major preps and one per track. It would be repetitive to go over two or three preps at the same track.

I'm working on trying to get the possible horses for the Kempton race. It's not as easy getting that kind of info as it is in this country.

03 Mar 2009 1:15 AM
Steve Haskin

Larry Jones said earlier he was planning to work Old Fashioned only once between races. Whether that is out of design or necessity I dont know. Maybe he doesnt want him peaking in the Rebel, which would make sense. These are only preps.

03 Mar 2009 1:17 AM
Steve Haskin

Raceposter, my only concern about Quality Road is running a 113 Beyer in February and at a one-turn mile. He really cant afford to regress much in his next start going two turns for the first time. We need to see how he handles it. This is what Larry Jones is trying to avoid.

03 Mar 2009 1:19 AM


03 Mar 2009 1:47 AM

quality road is the real deal. His  113 beyer moves him to the head of the class. he also has the tactical speed. he reminds me of big brown.

03 Mar 2009 4:27 AM

Raceposter and Steve I think Quality Road is sitting in a great position. He only needs to run in the Florida Derby 4 weeks from now and then off to the Derby because he has enough Graded Stakes winnings and will come into the Derby 3rd off a layoff.  Quality Road has proven himself Beyer worthy to win the Kentucky Derby. Getting 2 turn experience will be key and the Florida Derby will give him a chance to rest for 5 weeks.  A brilliant performance by him in the Florida Derby will set Quality Road up nicely to meet the talent coming in from California this year.  Bring on Dunkirk.

03 Mar 2009 8:25 AM
Dave R

I thought Theregoesjojo really ran a nice race in the FOY as did Quality Road.  I think all the others can be discounted at this point.  TGjojo was a bit slow out of the gate in the FOY which has not been a problem for him previously.  He was asked early to move up into mid pack behind quick fractions and then showed a very good acceleration around the turn and kept on coming down the straight.  He is a horse to watch and is in good hands with McPeek and Desormeaux.

03 Mar 2009 8:28 AM

steve - will you do a summary of your thoughts on The Gotham -

03 Mar 2009 9:43 AM
rich loughrey

Your article looks like you are leaning to Old Fashioned or Dunkirk. I was very impressed with Pioneer of the Nile's last race and he is in the hands of a master and winner of three Derbys.

03 Mar 2009 9:47 AM
Ann in Lexington

I wouldn't expect Beethoven to improve any more. He was bred to be a good 2yo and that was what he was. But now the rest of them are catching up in maturity and he has lost his advantage.

03 Mar 2009 10:07 AM

Steve- Year after year when Derby fever ignites it appears that most of my handicapping bretheren start looking for love in all the wrong places. Other than some quality outstanding 3 YO's from the past, a good deal of Derby winners wait to fire their best shot in the big dance. What I am saying is that we need to look beyond the apparent standout prep winners to find the ones moving methodically towards May 2nd. For me, I search for the ones with some 2 YO foundation, good efforts against top 2 YO's in graded stakes races, steady movement forward at 3 with solid performances (not necessarily winning)in their prep races. Most of all, they need some indication in their recent pedigree that says they are bred towards the 1 1/4 distance. Although very impressed by some of the recent performances, I am not over the top about anyone yet. Questions remain about distance, surface, ability to relax and rate, consistency, fitness, and other factors. So let's sit back, relax, take a deep breath, and see what happens over the next month before getting our panties in a twist about some recent run away winners.

03 Mar 2009 10:16 AM
Steve Haskin

Danylson, I was on At the Races yesterday talking about Manila. For pure talent, brilliance, and raw ability, Manila was the best grass horse I've ever seen. The first year I covered racing as NJ correspondent for the Thoroughbred Times was 1986, and I had to privilege of covering three of Manila's races -- the U.N. twice and Ballantine's Scotch Classic. You can't believe what a magnificent horse he was to look at, especially up close. He was a big, tough guy who was as determined as any horse you'll ever see. His BC Turf win was one of my favorite moments. I've always a warm spot in my heart for Manila.

03 Mar 2009 10:23 AM
Steve Haskin

SSC, yes, in next Monday's Derby Trail column, as I recap all the major 3-year-old races. It's the only stakes next week, so not much else to write about.

Rich, it does? I dont even talk about Dunkirk or Old Fashioned. If you're referring to winning the Derby, I'm not leaning toward anyone right now.

Tony C, I couldn't agree with you more.

03 Mar 2009 10:28 AM

Does anybody think that some of these 3yr olds are running for the money and not the Derby? I mean if their fit and ready they have to earn their keep right?

03 Mar 2009 10:47 AM

steve - didnt mean a recap - meant a preview of the Gotham - sorry for the confusion

03 Mar 2009 11:22 AM

OLD TIMER, 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones was sired by Elusive Quality. 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Ravens Pass was sired by Elusive Quality. If I am correct both races are run at 10 furlongs.

Mr. Prospector was considered a sprinter. However, he sired Belmont winner Conquistador Cielo, Preakness winner Tank's Prospect and Derby winner Fusaichi Pagasus.

There is consensus in the breeding industry that exceptional milers make the best stallions. Elusive Quality won the Poker S. (G3, 8F) NWR: 8FT- 1:31.63

Speed is more important than stamina in thoroughbreds. Stamina can be built with specialized training but speed comes directly from genes.

03 Mar 2009 12:00 PM

In regards to Manila, he was eulogized in another article which ended with this.  I thought it was worth repeating.

To put Manila's racing career in its proper perspective, it is worth remembering that the late Joe Hirsch paid him a profound compliment. In response to a reader's question about the best grass horses he'd ever seen, the dean of American turf writers answered thus:

"Round Table and Manila."

03 Mar 2009 12:19 PM

TonyC: That is one of the best comments I've read regarding the Derby Fever. It's also probably why I still have my hopes pinned on Mr. Hot Stuff. He wasn't good at all last year but he ran quite a bit before the light bulb switched on and he broke his maiden. I think his 3rd place in the Sham was a good effort and hopefully he'll move forward from there.

The Pamplemousse vs. Pioneerof the Nile vs. Stardom Bound is something I have to see in person. I can't wait.

03 Mar 2009 12:26 PM
August Song

Quality Road is bred to go a distance. The question last Saturday was whether he would be able to relax being on or close to the pace. John did an excellent job of getting the horse to relax and keeping him on cruise control until the stretch. It was a one turn mile, and there will be those who will doubt his ability to stretch out to a longer distance. Even if he regresses a little in his next start, I would not make the mistake and doubt the horse, or his connections. Jimmy Jerkens is one of the best trainers in racing today. Did people note that it was Quality Road with first time lasix? Did people note the size of the horse? Can you say Foregoesque? Quality Road is the real deal!!!

03 Mar 2009 12:58 PM

Steve, I agree with your assessment of Quality Road, I wish you had written it before the run of Saturdays race...unfortunately for me I was split between Taqurib and Quality, and went to the former[Garcia made my decision]. Saw your Derby doings Mardi gras edition, and noticed Petey Anderson story next to yours.Wasn't he aboard Forego early in his career?

03 Mar 2009 1:58 PM

I feel a need to respond to Justines' remarks on the comparison to Forego...a lot of fans remember him as a router, but he could move quickly as well[Dr. Fageresque]...I remember his race on the undercard of Secretariats historic Belmont, and although we know the track might have been brisk that day, he blistered the opposition in a remarkable fashion as well.

03 Mar 2009 2:04 PM

I wondered why Pletcher sent Take The Points to California to run instead of the Fountain of Youth. I found it puzzeling he wanted to run him on fake dirt. I loved watching the Pamplemousse run in the Sham, he did it with such ease.

03 Mar 2009 2:07 PM

Very disappointed and bitter that a wonderful facility like Gulfstream Park ; and more especially those in charge (go figure) would change an early season Derby Prep into nothing more than a glorified sprint that is clearly designed for a different type (class) of bloodstock.Forgive me if I seem a little befuddled . However could you be kind enough to respond to the following? If an owner , and his trainer had the good fortune to win the B.C. Juvenile; would they now consider this now ONE TURN SPRINT the correct path in which to follow when trying to prepare for a Triple Crown run .

I notice that in some (several) previous comments the importance placed on speed ; and rightly so , the quicker turn of foot is, in many instances can be the difference in the outcome of sprints of various distances and there is no doubt that speed can have a very great influence in races of the Classic distances (two turn races greater than a mile. One needs to look no further back than the recent valiant but wasted  performance of of Hard Spun in his Triple Crown effort to see the value of breeding for the free running individual over stamina. This individuals very speedy pedigree carried him very far , however  , the absolute incompetence with which that speed was utilized could not be a better example of how classic breeding for a balance of the two attributes speed and stamina should , in most situations carry  the day when properly prepared.

03 Mar 2009 3:01 PM

On the preps. No doubt the Oaklawn sequence makes the most sense.

Alex even jumped into a sprint there to "re-prep" for the Ark Derby.

03 Mar 2009 8:02 PM
Mike Relva


Quality Road is much more than a sprinter.

03 Mar 2009 8:58 PM

Gordon: The FOY at a mile at this time of the year is a great build up to the Derby.  It may not suit ever trainer's program but watch and see the quality that it brings together and how these horses will move forward.  It will also serve to give many pretenders a reality check in terms of speed, ability to rate and closing ability.  The only issue is that the Gulfstream track has too much speed bias or bias against closers.  

03 Mar 2009 9:15 PM

Steve, your best column in a long time on the top Derby contenders and the top upcoming Derby preps.

Keep the good stuff coming.

03 Mar 2009 10:40 PM

Steve, if the Arkansas Derby has been the most influential Derby prep of the last decade, then why do you have to reach back all the way to 1992 and 1996 to find Kentucky Derby winners other than Smarty Jones who raced in the Arkansas Derby.  What about the Florida Derby, which has produced three Kentucky Derby winners since 2001.

06 Mar 2009 1:42 AM




10 Mar 2009 1:19 AM
ron in fla

Hi Steve

It's ron in fla.

I firmly believe the best 3 yr old is Affimatif, unfortunately he looks like another Curlin as far as foundation is concerned. I read at the Downey site that bloodhorse has him running in an allow. again no graded earnings. I hope Pletcher's plans are to run him in allow when he wins by daylight throw him in BlueGrass and i believe if he just runs 2nd he will have enough graded earnings. Do u know what pletchers plans r. and ur comments on the horse. Thanks again this yr for another great information site. between u and downey and dr roman i get all the triple crown info and the best.


26 Mar 2009 5:02 PM

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