Countdown to the Cup: The Road Keeps Going

So, Quality Road is back on track and headed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). Todd Pletcher loved his race in the Woodward (gr. I). Johnny Velazquez loved his race in the Woodward. In fact, everyone close to the horse loved his race in the Woodward.

But their initial reaction to the colt’s 4 ¾-length victory was more relief than anything.

After all, Quality Road ruled the older male division before his defeat as the 1-2 favorite in the Aug. 7 Whitney Handicap (gr. I). He looked to have the extreme brilliance at all distances that would make him the horse to catch, and to beat, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Continue reading this story, or feel free to share your comments below...


Leave a Comment:

Steve Haskin

Thank you, Dr. D. I appreciate the kind words. That's very nice of you to say.

07 Sep 2010 7:25 PM


I must admit at this stage, it appears to be just a mere formality for Zenyatta to win the Classic.

I understand that she picked up three first place votes from Blame in the latest NTRA poll, and seems to be pulling away.

It also appears that many of Europe's best will bypass the Classic and will go instead in the Turf (Workforce, Canford Cliffs) or Turf Mile (Goldikova, Paco Boy, Makfi) leaving the Classic with Blame, Quality Road, Lookin At Lucky, Richard's Kid, and Awesome Again.

07 Sep 2010 7:59 PM

Hey I got a sleeper for ya: Mr.

Rip Van Winkle in an encore

performance,  didn't ship well,

and was a tired horse with feet issues in last Classic....Coolmore

easing him back,priming for peak

performance in Louisville...

remember: i called the trifecta

for the Kentucky Derby and

Preakness and called Dross as

the winner of the Belmont..

don't diss the sandman!

07 Sep 2010 8:32 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, a great discussion on Quality Road and how he may fare in the BCC. Very incisive, which is helpful to me being relatively new to racing (3 yrs).

I think QR is probably not going to win the BCC. Blame worries me. As you said, he is a fast closer and so is Zenyatta. Zenny will have to outrun a horse that has similar closing speed. I just hope her huge stride will be the difference. LAL is the big question mark for me. I think QR can get the classic distance but I think he likes shorter distances better. Blame is a beastie boy who can do it all. Having said that, I think Zenyatta can beat them. She needs a good trip and good tactics by Mike Smith but she has the ability to leave them in the dust with her ears standing straight up in the bargain. It's going to be the most exciting race seen in years; one for the ages.

07 Sep 2010 8:35 PM

It is rather amusing that, in a way, Zenyatta may need Rachel Alexandra in the Classic so she can beat Quality Road. The two old adversaries teaming up, wouldn't that be something? Probably won't happen, but it's a fun thought.

When it comes to finding Quality Road's weakness, I've been a bit puzzled. He runs his best races when he has someone to track the whole way, so perhaps if there was legitimate speed in the race it would be to his advantage. On the other hand, if he were to be left alone on the lead, he might lose his concentration, like in the Whitney, and fail to deliver the needed kick to hold off Zenyatta and Blame.

The four big horses right now are Blame, Looking At Lucky, Quality Road, and Zenyatta. Personally, there's nothing I'd love more than to see Zenyatta win, but I have a feeling this will be a close one that could go to any horse.

07 Sep 2010 8:41 PM
Robin from Maryland

Glad to know that Quality Road is a better actor at the gate.  So, this year there can be no excuses when he faces Queen Z.  I for one can't wait!!!

07 Sep 2010 8:42 PM

I believe QR can get the distance in the Classic and be competitive.  Is he as good as Blame or Zenyatta in that circumstance?  Hard to say.  Right now I predict a tight finish among those 3.

Now, has anyone had as unfortunate luck of late as that of Steve Assmussen, losing TWO top BC division leaders in Masterperfection and Kantharos to fractures during training at Saratoga??  Heartbreaking!!

07 Sep 2010 8:46 PM

Great read, as always, Steve.  

The track conditions should have a great effect on who wins the Classic, don't you think?  

For me, Lookin at Lucky will be very tough.  He has the warrior win gene in him.  For sure, it will be an exciting Breeders Cup.  

I'm hanging my hat on the Queen.

Steve, I sure hope connections for Mine That Bird read your column.  My heart aches for this stellar little horse.  

07 Sep 2010 8:54 PM

I also understand that Zenyatta will move into a tie for second place with Workforce and only behind Canford Cliffs in the World Thoroughbred Rankings to be released tomorrow.

And with only Zenyatta having one more race before the Breeders' Cup, it looks likely that Zenyatta just might be the top ranked horse in the world going in the BC.

07 Sep 2010 9:04 PM
Karen in Indiana

Quality Road did win the Woodward, but it was against a weak field and he was breathing hard in the winner's circle.

Poor Mine That Bird. I hate what has been going on with him. Why not take him back to the beginning - let him run at Woodbine with Chantal and his original trainer? At least let Chantal ride him and ask her what she thinks is different with him. Lest we forget, he was not only the Kentucky Derby winner, but also the 2 yr. old Canadian champion. He deserves better than this.

07 Sep 2010 9:11 PM

QR is a very good horse.  I can certainly see him picking up a check in the Classic.  I don't see him winning the Classic, though.  Not impossible, but not likely.

07 Sep 2010 9:11 PM

Steve, did you see the news that Cloudy's Knight may come back in the KY Cup Turf?  All depends on his work tomorrow morning at Del. Park.  I'm sure Jonathan Sheppard won't run him unless he truly believes he's up to it.  Be still my heart! I have been so sad thinking he'd been retired and I'd never see that glorious creature run again.  Stride-wise, I think Zen is the only horse who can match him.

Glad I'm not the only one who thought Tell A Kelly ran the best race of the weekend! It wasn't so much that she won going away, but how EASILY she did it - and just kept going after the wire.  That girl has a future!  She doesn't look at all like the Tapits we're used to seeing, those that burn themselves right out.

07 Sep 2010 9:19 PM

It is too bad that the Ned Evans and Pletcher dont think logically about the race choices. Quality Road could win the Classic..maybe. But I think he could definitely win the dirt mile and even the sprint would give him a nicer run. He set the track record in the Amsterdam in a comeback and if Velasquez pays attention and doesnt let him get bored on the front end like he did in the Whitney then he can win the mile or sprint. He is better than Discreetly Mine but unfortunately same trainer and Discreetly Mine is not versatile like QR. He has proven great speed if he needs too but I guess that the Classic puts lead in everyones pencil..HOY will go to Zenyatta unless something happens. Dont really think Ned Evans needs the extra money from the classic and QR breeding sindication will be sold out regardless. The Classic is an ego play for QR. He belongs in the Mile or Sprint.

07 Sep 2010 9:41 PM

Karen in Indy : Good point about MTB, that's probably what's best for him right now.  I didn't play him this weekend simply because of the change they made.  The horse is not a speed horse at all, in this case, I'd have to agree that Lukas kind of lost it but can't fault him for trying something new.  I just wish it was going down a level in class than using blinkers.

07 Sep 2010 9:55 PM

We have come to expect excellence from you, Steve, and this piece did not fail to satisfy said expectation.  I appreciate more and more the evaluative, all-sides approach you take to the horses and races you discuss.

As is true in so many races, pace will influence the outcome of the BCC.  I've watched so many races strategically lost by "saving" horses for the final quarter.  Rating is one thing, but fighting a thoroughbred during a race just ticks him or her off, at least the way I see it.  Your opinion?

07 Sep 2010 9:58 PM
Terri Z

Thanks for your wonderful article and assessment of Quality Road. I have been fortunate enough to see him race in the Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby and the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream. Dunkirk, a deep closer, was a beaten horse after the Fla Derby. And in the Donn, QR, looked like Pegasus floating effortlessly down the track. In both efforts, it looked like he could run all day and had not reached all gears.

The Breeders Cup Classic looks to be the race of the year and perhaps, a classic in many years to come.

To have such wonderful horses running for the Classic in one year, this is really a treat.

Many thanks again for such a well written and informative article.

Changing the subject, I wonder what suiters will be chosen for Zenyatta. To me, a handshake deal which produced the great Secretariat might be the best thing possible.

I wonder if Zen is going to Adena Springs after the Classic. The Mosses have their Guacamo there.

07 Sep 2010 10:10 PM

Rachel Alexandra in the BCC would be to Quality Road's advantage, contrary to what many people think (although I'd personally prefer to see her in the Distaff) as it would enhance the pace on the front end.  If she were in the race closers could be taken out of their game by having to run hard too soon or be left with too much to do against a razor sharp, crackerjack colt like Quality Road that wont be backing up at ten furlongs (doubters should refer to his pedigree and 3YO form for assistance).  Rachel could carry him a longer way into the home stretch where he would have less time to idle once he hit the front.  It is ironic that Todd Pletcher who once thought that he couldn't defeat Quality Road (then under the care of Jimmy Jerkins) without the help of a "rabbit" in the build-up to the Florida Derby, now thinks that the big colt needs a little more help up front than he used to as a 3YO.  Many horses change as they mature so perhaps Todd should consider adjusting his equipment somewhat and return to the use of the shadow roll (fitted by Jimmy Jerkins) instead of his 'trade mark' figure eight.  What is certain is that within nine weeks  Todd Pletcher will figure out what works best for "the king of the dirt" and have him firing on all cylinders in the biggest race of his career.  A return to his Donn Handicap form will see him anhilate this years Breeder's Cup Classic field.  Last year was the year of the queens of the track but this year we are witnessing THE RETURN OF THE KING.  Go Quality Road.

07 Sep 2010 10:21 PM
Paula Higgins

ITA about Mine That Bird. Send him back to his start. It is heartbreaking to see this wonderful horse keep losing like this. Clearly, something is wrong, either mentally or physically.

I agree with the poster who suggested  QR for the Mile rather than the Classic. Makes much more sense to me too. But they are going for all the marbles instead and for HOTY.

07 Sep 2010 10:48 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   How the track surface is playing is huge. All I can hope for is a fair track. If it's souped up for speed or has a rail bias, that would be terrible. A fair track, and may the best man or woman win, then there are no complaints. With a fair track, Blame and Zenyatta have the advantage. With a speed favoring track QR has the advantage. Or Twirling Candy if he goes there, and that immense talent can be harnessed. I'd be taking Twirling Candy to Kentucky to train at CD, and race once at Keeneland before The Breeder's Cup, rather than running in the Goodwood. If he likes CD dirt The Classic is the place for him. If not, then run him in the turf. I'm hoping that there is some speed in The Classic other than QR. I'm rooting for Zenyatta. Blame is tough, and it will be a big upset if he loses the Jockey Gold Cup. QR should be in The Gold Cup too. If he didn't run well in it, they'd have the option of the Breeder's Dirt Mile, but they have the confidence he can win the Classic off of the layoff. If the track is souped up, maybe, if it's fair that would seem to be a very tough task.

07 Sep 2010 11:42 PM

Mr Haskin,

"Right on" regarding Quality Road and the Woodward. He got the job done and now it's on to the BCC. I can understand why they want him in the Classic. If he wins it, he's HOY and his value at stud increases many folds.

Many feel that he has a better chance of a star performance in the Dirt Mile, but that race (rightfully or not) doesn't have the status of the Classic, at least not as far as stud value is concerned.

"Right on" also about Mine That Bird. It's been painful, for those who love him, to see him falter through the experiments of this year. I don't have much hope that his connections will take your advice, but it could happen... you never know.

Thank you for a fair and balanced column. You're the best!  

08 Sep 2010 12:38 AM

I agree with you regarding the Washington Park Handicap; it would be a shame to see a good horse unnecessarily excluded. Do you think they've made that race a "win and you're in" race so that Midwest horses and/or smaller stables' horses that might be more likely to be running in Grade III races have a better chance to get to the Breeder's Cup - in other words, a way to include the "small guy" - or do you think it's for some other reason?

08 Sep 2010 12:43 AM
Steve Haskin

Dubai Dave, I'm all over Rip; saving it for a column closer to the BC.

I saw that, Sherpa. That is great news.

Thanks,Oldie, I've been spouting off on that very thing for a while, most recently in regard to Rachel's earlier races and Quality Road in the Whitney.

Ranalulzion, that is assuming they go for the lead with Rachel. They've been rating her all year until the last race. If they send her, you're right, it could be an advantage as long as she doesnt go too slow. But she wont be any pushover for QR to use as a pacesetter.

08 Sep 2010 12:51 AM
Steve Haskin

Ranagulzion, the spelling of your name was a product of a bleary-eyed post at 1 a.m.

08 Sep 2010 12:53 AM

Another good discussion topic you have created Steve. I especially like your comments regarding MTB. I just hate to see what is happening with him. I am hoping for a change for the better and fast, but am not feeling all that confident that his current connections will rise to the occasion here and just do what is right for the horse. MTB will always have my respect because he is all heart. He placed in all 3 TC's and ran the fastest final quarter mile (23.77)seconds in the Derby since the great Secretariat in 1973 and won by like 6 3/4 lengths, the greatest margin of victory in the Derby since Assaults win by 8 lengths in 1946.

I mean really, the little dude deserves some respect. How many horses even make it to their 4th. year campaign? He just has had the worst luck with the decisions that have been made for him. I do not know if is heart and head is in it anymore and that is heartbreaking. But.. he has won my respect and adoration rather he wins another race or not.

As far as the BC goes, Zenyetta is my girl but there are some really nice horses out there. It will be exciting to see what happens. I pray she remains safe and sound.

08 Sep 2010 2:07 AM
The deacon

As always Steve a very well written blog. In my mind Quality Road has 2 chances to win the Classic and slim isn't looking good. When you said " a sigh of relief" in the winner's circle that in itself spoke volumes. To run a 150 flat for a 1 1/8 and beat virtually no one is a mediocre peformance at best. Not trying to be a "hater" or put a damper on anyone's dreams but Rachel has a better chance of getting 10 furlongs then Quality Road does.

This is a 3 horse race unless someone out of nowhere steps up, like one of the Euros. Zenyatta, Blame and Looking at Lucky are the cream of this years crop.

Zenyatta's connections are bringing her along pretty much like they did last year. Blame after running in and probably winning the JCGC would have had a rough campaign and who knows whats left in the tank. Looking at Lucky is also being brought along slowly so he will be fresh.

I agree with Zookeeper that Quality Road would be better suited for the dirt mile but I certainly understand why the connections want to win the Classic, especially after last years nightmare at Santa Anita.

Rip Van Winkle and Twice Over will be tough as well in the Classic...

08 Sep 2010 2:25 AM

Thanks for all of it but especially about Mine That Bird.  Yes, some of us DO care--as all these comments indicate.  Give the guy a race where he's competitive!

08 Sep 2010 6:38 AM

The record for attendance for any Breeders' Cup is 80,452 set in 1998.

The record attendance for a non-Derby event is 121,263 in 2007.

Off these two records, will one, both, or none of these records be broken if all contenders show up with good weather?

08 Sep 2010 7:41 AM

The odds for Zenyatta to win the Classic has been updated. She is now the 5/2 clear favorite.

Blame, Lookin At Lucky, and Quality Road are all 5-1.

Rachel Alexandra is 7-1.

08 Sep 2010 7:45 AM

My only question about Zen is this...have we seen her lay her body down? In her 2 close calls and the BC, did we see all that she can give?

If we did not, there is no horse on the planet that can catch her.

As much as I love QR, Blame may be the horse to beat at this point and I think the sight of him and Zen coming from behind and down the backstretch, well, sends shivers down my spine...

I do think the hardest working horse this year (in the bigs, we all know the bread n' butter horses really work hard) is Blind Luck...more races (7), more wins than anyone else (5)...but, what chance does a 3-year-old filly have of the highest honor? ;-)

Chuckles aside, she won't run in the Classic, so, for her, 3YOFilly is all she'll get.

08 Sep 2010 8:06 AM

You have touched more bases here than my Baltimore Orioles have this year Steve but I will try to be brief and express a few opinions of my own:

"defeat in the Woodward would be devastating – from a racing and breeding standpoint." hmmm, not sure about that would have to be pretty blind not to see Quality Road is one of the best thoroughbreds in the country.

Have my doubts MTB will ever comeback and reclaim the glory he achieved in the Kentucky Derby but it will be a great story if he does.

The incident during the Delmar Derby was most unfortunate but do we really want to start penalizing jockeys for circumstances beyond their control with DQs?

If the ZZ Top scaffolding made Twirling Candy wonder why old rockers never retire then welcome to the club.

Watching Tell A Kelly explode down the stretch gave me goosebumps....can't wait to see this filly race again.

08 Sep 2010 8:17 AM

I would love to see Rachel run in the classic. If she can track a legitamate front runner I think she runs the same race as QR. The PE was a great race for her and now that the times for other big races have come in I think her time on that track was not as horrible as fist looked at by many. I really feel like they give her the beldame at 1 1/8 and then the classic. Why not? nothing really to lose. or they can try the ladies where she would definately be favored.

08 Sep 2010 8:33 AM
Slew much to think about and discuss.  I still believe QR is the best miler around.  His failing is that once in front, he stops.  I don't think the BCC is the best place for him.

Competition for Zen will come from Lookin At Lucky.  We have yet to discover how a 3 year old would stack up against a proven 6 year old mare who has an intimidating presence.

As far as Euros go, Cape Blanco is headed to the Prix d'Arc, and then the BCC.  He's beaten Rip in the Irish Championship.

And then consider the weather...November in Kentucky.  What will QR and Zen do on a wet and sloppy track?  RA can run in the Distaff but, if it's a sloppy track she would be comfortable in the BCC.

Twirling Candy.  I would expect that wild ride from a 2 year old, but not a 3 year old...echoes of 85ina50 apparently spooked him.  I feel terrible for Summer Movie.  Favorite or not, didn't Vineyard Haven get dq'd last year at Saratoga for an even smaller infraction?  Twirling Candy ran a spectacular race.  A DQ would not have changed that.  Maybe they were just glad he didn't jump the fence and wander over to the Sunset Boulevard.

Finally...MTB.  Last weekend they interviewed Rick Dutrow about I Want Revenge.  He stated that he was not the same horse as last year, but this year they're still trying to figure out what's best for him.  They simply don't know.  Perhaps that's the same for Lukas...they just haven't figured out what's best for MTB.

08 Sep 2010 9:55 AM

I think a fresh, sharp Quality Road is going to be very dangerous in the Classic. This race does look very wide open though. I agree with your analysis that the biggest game changer for all parties involved would be for Rachel Alexandra to run (although I don't think she can win at the classic distance). I look for Zenyatta and Blame to keep an eye on the pace, and strike when it's hot - Zenyatta wins in the final strides... but who knows??

08 Sep 2010 9:56 AM

With regards to the last point you made in the blog Steve, I think it may be time for the whole grading procedure of races to be reviewed. It seems to me that if we have people with the smarts to formulate speed ratings it shouldn't be that difficult to implement some numerical system for grading races. Having some sensible point system in place would ensure that the cream of the crop compete in the Breeders Cup making the event more than just championships in name.

08 Sep 2010 9:59 AM

Steve, once again thank you for a well written, well thought out article.  I love QR but I have my questions as to whether he can get the distance in the Classic.  At this point, I don't want to make a call about who will or won't win the Classic.  If everyone stays healthy (and that's a worry given all the bad news lately with injuries and retirements) then we are all in for a race for the ages in November.  My husband and I have our BC tickets so bring on the show!  We are so excited to think we will get to see all of these great horses.  The other factor is the Euro group; I'm curious if they will be as strong this year given the races are on dirt?  As for MTB, thank you for including him.  I was heartbroken for him on Saturday.  I actually had to rewatch the race because I was paying more attention to MTB than QR.  I was not a fan of the blinker idea as soon as it was announced.  When they sent him up to run with QR I knew he was done.  MTB is not a speedster, he's a closer and his connections need to tap into this again.  Steve, I have watched the race several times and it looked to me as if MTB atually propped on Rajiv coming down the stretch.  Did you notice this?  Seriously, what is wrong with this poor horse?  The interesting thing to me is in the post parade, he looked awesome!  He was dancing on his toes and looked so healthy!  He does look to have beefed up this year, Steve, and I wonder if he's not adjusted to his "new" body.  I am very concerned given the fact MTB is a gelding, if he doesn't start to produce soon we will reading about him five years from now running in some $2,000 claimer.  This is a plea to his connections, please do right by him because he's loved!  

08 Sep 2010 10:22 AM

One of the nicest wins last weekend was by Here Comes Ben in the Forego. Unexpectedly (by most of us), he beat some really, really good horses in that race. It's always very nice when an unassuming horseman, like Charles Lopresti, shows the big-name trainers how it's done. I found his comment very refreshing: "I was a little intimidated coming up here because I've never run in a grade I before..." Well, Mr. Lopresti, your horse certainly belonged and so did you!

08 Sep 2010 10:36 AM

@Dr Drunkinbum,  Thanks for your insight. I know this has taken valuable time away from handicapping the E. B. Johnston and the Bangle and Beads from beloved Pomona, er Fairplex.

08 Sep 2010 10:37 AM
Ann in Lexington (aka Pedigree Ann)

For whatever reason, Quality Road looks like the second coming of Hindoo only at Gulfstream. (Hindoo, by the way, won 18 of 20 at 3, or 19 of 21 if you count the race-off for a dead heat, which was run the same day. The 18 or 19 wins were in a row, from May through August of 1881. Try that streak for size, Zenyatta! Overall, Hindoo won 30 of 35, or 31 of 36. I know in the olden days they didn't count heats, only the result of the best 2 of 3 heats as single race. But race-offs of supposed 'dash' races? But I digress.)

Quality Road had to work to win the Met Mile, was caught in the Whitney, and came home slowly in the Woodward. Subtract his Gulfstream races and he looks like a speedy miler-plus (best to 9f) with class. He still has a lot to prove. And notoriously cuppy Churchill isn't going to be of any help unless they (grinding teeth) seal against rain or deliberately soup it up. That stretch keeps going, and going, and going....,

08 Sep 2010 10:42 AM
Barbara W

Thanks, Steve, for including MTB in your great comments on QR. I was so down after watching the little guy struggle so. In looking at the replays, it seemed to me that at the spot you mentioned he hit a wall. It didn't look to be orthopedic. I'm wondering with others if they have rechecked that throat problem. He is not on track for any awards this year, so why do his connections persist in running him into the ground. I would much rather see him retire to Kentucky Horse Park Hall of Champions where those of us who love him could visit. Failing that, I would certainly get Chantal to pay him a visit. But that would be too logical. Thanks to all of you who are standing up for him.

As to QR, he should be fine in the gate if they will get those helicopters to back off and use longer lenses at the starting gate. Zenyatta is my girl, and I'll be rooting for her, but I love QR too. I don't know much about race strategy (I'm learning from you all), but I'm sure Mike and the Big Z are figuring it out. As the song by Liza G. Fly says, "She's checkin' with Mike about what gear to use."

08 Sep 2010 10:42 AM
steve from st louis

Steve, apparently, the Del Mar stewards are more concerned with the tote board than they are with policing the running of the races. Should that be ANY consideration? I think not.  

There can be no question Twirling Candy impeded Summer Movie down the backstretch. End of story. It matters not what happened after that. This wasn't Angel and Codex floating Genuine Risk wide at the top of the Preakness stretch; that was race-riding.

You wrote that "there was no doubt that what he did to Summer Movie normally would result in an instant disqualification." Then, why didn't it? Because of the show pool? Hogwash.

Believe me, unlike some bloggers on the Bloodhorse site, horse racing is not just about gambling and I wasn't smart enough (or dumb enough in this instance) to have placed a wager on the second-place runner or Twirling Candy for that matter("ain't a man alive paid the rent at 1-5").

They couldn't wait to hear from the riders? Jeez, maybe one of the stewards is a long, lost relative of the late British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone, who is famous for his quote, "Justice delayed is justice denied." In this case, we can just boil the stewards' actions down to "justice denied."

08 Sep 2010 10:47 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

Thank you for your comments on Mine That Bird.  Getting a Kentucky Derby champ beaten over 20 lengths is a sad thing. Forget the blinkers and jockey change.  Find him a race where he can be competitive and don't race him every few weeks!

08 Sep 2010 10:55 AM


Saratoga has been deep and tiring, and from what I heard, it was particularly deep that day, which would explain the time. He did it easily and never really was extended. On a track like Saratoga I would not hold that time against him.

08 Sep 2010 11:02 AM
Steve Haskin

Giddyup, I had the same thoughts about a second defeat for QR and changed it first thing this morning to soften it. I think it would have been devastating for his chances in the Classic, which is what I changed it to.

08 Sep 2010 11:28 AM
Bill Daly

Thought Boys of Toscanova was very impressive. Ramon sat still pretty much the entire trip and put away two pretty good horses without so much as a deep breath.  Should be very interesting to see how far this horse can go.  The talent is certainly there.

08 Sep 2010 11:41 AM

Wow... reading all these posts, I just can't wait to see a spectacular, exhillirating BCC show! May the true horse champion emerge as the winner!

Steve, you're just soooo exciting!

08 Sep 2010 11:43 AM

the two horses that i had really wanted to see in the bc fm turf and the bc sprint, well that be impossible with tuscan evening suffering a heart attack and i'm thankful that she went almost instantly and well i just hope to see majesticperfection happily covering mares next yr and i really hope he gets champion sprinter because he was by far the best and fastest sprinter this yr.

08 Sep 2010 11:45 AM

People the bottonm line is QR does NOT want a mile and a quarter. Say what you want about him at 1m or 1 1/8th that he is the best older horse. But at a 1m and 1/4 he is not at his best. He will be very vulnerable that last 1/16th of a mile. And look out if some trainer decides to throw a rabbit in there to go with him early. When the time comes I will be looking for someone to come from off the pace.

08 Sep 2010 11:46 AM
Bill Daly

Speaking of the BCC, I think Blame will be a handful.  He's based at CD and likes the track. If anything he's getter better all the time. The JCGC should be an appetizer for him.

08 Sep 2010 11:55 AM
Karen in Indiana

Slew, I think that's interesting coming from Rick Dutrow. He had Gran Estreno for a couple of years. If you check his record, there are no wins during the time Rick Dutrow trained him and he was running him in claiming races. Gran Estreno has been doing very well since he got another owner & trainer. and has won the Claiming Crown and 2 graded stakes in the last 2 years. IEAH has spent quite a lot of money on horses that haven't done well once they've gone to him.

08 Sep 2010 12:13 PM

Terri Z.....Giacomo will never, ever even get a sniff of Zenyatta.  She will go to the Best in the breed her entire career and Giacomo does not fit the bill.  Physically he is not a good match.  Holy Bull has not shown to be a sire of sires either.  

    I have followed Quality Road for over a year and a half now and I can say this.  He is NOT a 1 1/4 mile horse.  He is a brillant miler who stretches to 1 1/8 miles, but even there he is very beatable.  When he hits the top of the stretch at Churchill and see how much farther he has to go, watch for that bit to come spitting out of his mouth.  Zenyatta will just be taking her first deep breath at the 8th pole while fire will be shooting out Q.R.'s nostrils.  Spin it however you want, he physically is not a distance horse and his races have shown he simply is not wanting to go 1 1/4 miles.  The Woodward was a week field and he was blowing hard in the winners circle.  The track may,,,,I repeat may have been a little deep, but I just don't see it as playing that big of a role.  Blame outfinished him at 1 1/8 miles and both Blame and Zenyatta will be outfinishing him at CHurchill.  I think they should run him in the B.C. mile.  Breeders are still going to flock to him in droves regardless of which race he runs in.

   As for Mine That Bird....why the owners thought D Wayne could do a better job that his Derby Winning trainer, I will never know.  The horse has one running style and adding blinkers is not the way to go.

08 Sep 2010 1:21 PM


08 Sep 2010 2:54 PM

I do not think any of us has seen "all" the ueen "Zenyatta" really has? Her 5th gear has'nt been used yet according to hall of famer Mike Smith, and I honestly believe him ! 5th gear would be used in the "Belmont" a race Zenyatta could have won, 2 years ago if entered ! Yes, she can definately go 1 1/2 easily. It takes her 1 1/8 just to get into 4th gear, and she only works as hard as she needs to, to win ! Lazy, or just her style she has the heart and strength of a "Secretariat". She's not like any mare or philly any of us have ever seen. Bring on the Euros, Blame Q.Road, Lucky, Rich. Kid, whoever, it won't matter. What does concern me though is an "off track" ! How will she fare in the mud/sloppy track, that's my main concern as she will be no doubt in the rear for the first mile ...Any thoughts /

08 Sep 2010 2:58 PM

I think traffic and Mike Smith makes or breaks Zenyatta's perfect career...Blame vs Z is what it will boil down to. No 6 horses wide Mike! You can't give Blame or even QR a perfect trip AND go 1/2 way across the track and expect her to make it all up...

08 Sep 2010 3:21 PM

The good news for Mine That Bird is that race fans still care and talk about him. If a thoroughbred blogger says Super Saver these days, most readers think he is referring to a discount retail store.

08 Sep 2010 3:31 PM


You make an interesting point about the trainer change for Mine That Bird... why did they change? D. Wayne Lukas does not have MTB up to form, and hasn't all year. I know that Chip Wooley loves that gelding, and would only do what was best for him. I think the owners should eat crow and send him back to Wooley, who I think really understands MTB... also, get Borel back aboard!

08 Sep 2010 3:46 PM
Barbara W

Well put, Monty.

Rob, you may have you opinion, but you do not have to yell at us. In order to have your opinion, however, there are several facts that one must ignore.

I agree that a sloppy track could pose problems for Zenyatta. It could also be very cold. I'm not familiar with Louisville weather that time of year. But the way things are going this year, it could be anything. We know she's a great horse with great heart, she has owners who love her, a trainer who is careful with her, and an experienced jockey who knows her inside and out.

We'll pray they all come safely home.

08 Sep 2010 4:03 PM
In aint easy being good!

You guys think this is a 3 horse race?? Horses like fly down and afleet express showed that they are true 1 1/4 horses and dont sell these horses short they are getting good at the right time! I know that the 4 year old horses are good but this race is more open than you think it is!

08 Sep 2010 4:04 PM

Yeah, and Onion was outfinishing Secretariat in the Whitney because it's such a test of champions.  And trainers want to make sure their top stock peaks in August.


I don't know if Quality Road can hold off Zenyatta or Blame at 1 1/4 or not, but I do know you haven't seen his best race yet.

08 Sep 2010 4:44 PM

I think Quality road was workmanlike in his win--I honestly wasn't impressed because it was a weak field and perfect set-up---of course I can be wrong and he did only what needed but I didn't think he was awe inspiring. He will, to win the BC.

As for Zenyatta I love her and think her talent is unquestioned BUT what if we have a sloppy track? Does she run? Next not to jink her but she hasn't really had a bad trip other than slow paces up front and going wide. A horse coming from the clouds is always prone to get stopped at some time or jammed in with all sorts of run. Hopefully it won't happen.

Tell a Kelly on the other hand---Wow! Now my pick for her division but the Synth and Main to be answered.

08 Sep 2010 5:24 PM

Just for the sake of pointing it out again, the track has been EXTREMELY deep this meet.  If anybody is questioning Quality Road's ability, I think the condition of the track must be taken into consideration.

08 Sep 2010 5:41 PM

People,unless you grew up at the track and starting handicapping at the age of 13 like I have,you don't know what you are looking at when you watch a race. QR ran against allowance horse and high priced claimers in the Woodward and still was in an all out drive coming home pretty slow his final eight. It was at a mile and an eighth and he wasn't pulling away from the field. At a mile and a quarter against legitamite Grade 1 competition he will be in big time trouble. Say all you want about trying to come up with a horse to beat Zenyatta but it aint happening man. First of all she is 5 lengths better on dirt and the further she goes the better gets. On  synthetics she struggles with the surface but still wins under a hand ride while she is just beginning to gear up at the shorter distances. In the Classic she will be in full stride because of the distance which will make her appear as if she's stepping it up a notch like last years Classic. She's not taking it easy in races like the Hirsch. It's a combination of surface and distance. I know a little about the way horses run since we rented rooms to jockeys at my house in Beachmont in the seventies and eighties. I've learned quite a bit from them.

08 Sep 2010 5:51 PM

There is no question Tell A Kelly was the star of the weekend. The last time I saw a female show that kind of acceleration she had my VISA card and was dashing off to a shoe sale.

08 Sep 2010 6:51 PM
Terri Z

Robert, I did not mean to infer that Zenyatta will be bred to Giacomo. I thought that there might be some agreement where to initially board her in Kentucky; Jerome Moss is on the board of directors at Santa Anita and Frank Stronach's Magna Corp owns Santa Anita. And of course, Stronach owns Adena Springs.

I just hope all the horses stay healthy and strong and that its a wonderful Breeders Cup Classic.

I would like to see Zen supercede  the record set by the great Eclipse and then see her win the Ecipse award for horse the year.

08 Sep 2010 7:12 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I just finished watching the replay of last year's Classic. It was one of the strangest feelings I've ever had. Even though I already knew what happened, while watching the replay I STILL didn't thinks she was going to get there in time. Unbelievable. And suddenly that name...Zenyatta, Zenyatta, Zenyatta, I can't stop singing Zenyattaaaaaaaaa.

08 Sep 2010 7:20 PM
Paula Higgins

Tim, I hope you're right. I tend to agree. My big worries are a sloppy track (I think they might scratch her if that happens) and Blame. He is a closer. I just hope he is a slower closer and her stride puts him away.

David Ingordo (the man who found her for Jerry and Ann Moss) is certain enough about her ability to win the BCC that he challenged Jason to a bet on his blog. As is well known, Jason is not her biggest fan.

08 Sep 2010 9:08 PM

Very interesting article, Steve, and the comments are thought provoking as well.  Trying to take into consideration the points that everyone is trying to make, I went back and watched the race on you-tube again and while I have a great deal of respect for Quality Road, I think I'll have to side with several of you who think the classic distance may be a little far for him.  I do think he's a top horse and he's absolutely gorgeous to boot, but I'm not sure myself about the length he's willing to go.  Of course, far be it from me to second guess those of you who are much more knowledgeable - it's just my feeling so far.  Thank you, Steve, for bringing up Mine That Bird.  My heart was aching for him during that race and I'm with all of you who are also hoping they will soon find the key that unlocks his talent.  I do believe it is there, I think he is capable of so much more than he has shown us this year.

Giddyup - your comment about Tell A Kelly cracked me up!  Thanks!

Dr. D - each time I watch one of Zenyatta's races my heart stops and I think she's not going to make it even though I've seen the race before and I know the outcome!  She's trying to send me to an early grave - lol!



08 Sep 2010 9:14 PM

I'm sticking with the QUEEN all the way. Win, lose or dead heat she is and always will be my favorite racehorse. She is a complete original. There will never be another. LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!!!

08 Sep 2010 9:15 PM
steve from st louis

Tim: You have no idea who you're "talking to" on the other end of these blogs. I know more than a few owners and trainers who spend time on some of these sites only when Haskin reports,  not to mention vets, pinhookers, agents  and some former National Turf Writers' Association members and a former head of the Turf Writers' Guild in Chicago of whom I'm particularly fond. Thumping your chest here, as the kids say, don't impress me much. Don't talk down to someone unless you're trying to help them up. There are other blogs on this site where that attitude is encouraged. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the fact that your family rented out rooms to jocks and you "learned" from them has no bearing on your critique of Quality Road. I don't necessarily disagree with what you say, just how you said it.

08 Sep 2010 10:16 PM

Steve, that decision NOT to DQ Twirling Candy was a huge flub for California racing.  Many here think the stewards took care of the Craigs who have ties to Del Mar.  I have no problem with rich owners who contribute so much to the game, but shouldn't they and their horses have to play by the same rules as everybody else?  Steward Scott Cheney stated that the incident happened so far away from the finish line, it had no bearing on the order of finish.  Does that mean that ANY incident that occurs 5 furlongs from the wire should be overlooked?  I'm talking about $10,000 claimers too.  It was another black eye for California racing and I feel that those Del Mar stewards should be fired!

08 Sep 2010 10:18 PM
Smart Strike

Regarding whether Twirling Candy should have been DQ'd. There is no doubt he compromised the other horse and I do think the stewards were influenced by the money bet on him. People today are more afraid to do what is right. If you look at the great Dr.Fager's lifetime record it shows he ran out of the money only once. That one "out of the money" race was the Jersey Derby, which he finished 1st in, winning by 6 1/2 lengths and breaking the track record. He was disqualified for "crowding" horses on the clubhouse turn. Not even on the far turn but on the clubhouse turn. He wouldn't be taken down today.

I agree with those who say QR is not a true 1 1/4 horse. In the right circumstances he could probably win at the distance but I don't think Churchill Downs against Z, B, LaL and others is going to be that spot.

I really think LaL has a big time chance to win the Classic if Baffert can get him reqady. He just had his first work today since the Haskell. Baffert could train him up to it but that is asking a lot. I believe the horse is maturing into a big time runner though.

LaL, Blame and Z are 3 of the most tenacious runners we've seen and that would be a great race. None of them would quit.

08 Sep 2010 10:34 PM
steve from st louis

Markinsac, thanks for that info. I can't believe Steward Cheney made such a dumb remark. Well, come to think of it, nothing those stewards would say should surprise me. A black eye for Cali racing, indeed.

08 Sep 2010 10:35 PM

Monty, Zenyatta would not have won the Belmont 2 years ago, because she was a 4 year old at the time and thus was not eligible for that race.

When she was a 3 year old, the Belmont was won by Rags to Riches over Curlin. Zenyatta had yet to step into a starting gate at that point.

09 Sep 2010 1:20 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

I know it's too early for Derby Dozen and Derby picks. I don't know if Jaycito will get to The Breeder's Juvenile but I think he has a great shot of making it into The Derby. He placed in the DM Futurity Sep 8th. I like his style and pedigree. I was hoping to see something from him and I did. Hoping he stays healthy. I'd like to see his trainer Mike Mitchell get to the 2011 Derby too. Might be tough to keep the jockey, Garcia though.


  Isn't it amazing how that happens. I've got to find some kind of chill pill or meditation technique or something before November. I think Slew's idea of a defibrillator makes sense too. I'm already nervous !!!!

09 Sep 2010 2:39 AM

Steve from STl, Steward Cheney also said, "Who the owner is, who the jockey is, who the trainer is or what the odds were have no bearing on the inquiry."  But he also said, "It would be unjust to disqualify a horse in a race, especially a grade 1 race for this infraction . . ."   He stuck his foot in his mouth again!  He said grade 1 races should merit more fluffing, if you could put it that way.  He should keep his mouth shut!  I just don't like the stewards taking advantage of the bettors.  They shouldn't be allowed to call it one way then another way. The Del Mar stewards NEVER INTERVIEWED EITHER JOCKEY!  I mentioned that TC is owned by Jenny Craig.  Well she did a classy thing by apologizing Summer Movie's trainer, Sherman.  I wonder how that made steward Cheney feel?

09 Sep 2010 10:58 AM

Thank you for your obsevations and insight. As a successful handicapper for the last 8 yrs. I

am always amazed at how journalists keep making excuses for lucky and or bad horses. Mine the Bird is a GIII horse that had the perfect ride and conditions for

an upset win in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Biggest upset I have ever witnessed. Giacomo was more deserving than this horse. Quality Road, give me a break, will not make a mile and a quarter. Last yr

Rachel Alexandra beat a bunch of suspect horses and wins horse of the yr. Thank you big-headed East Coast Media. Most overrated horse in the last 40 yrs. Had Unrivaled

Belle over Rachel and obviously steamed on Blame over Quality Rd.

Good Luck next yr.

09 Sep 2010 11:10 AM
Ann in Lexington (aka Pedigree Ann)

Robert, stallions can surprise you. Ack Ack wasn't by a 'sire of sires', yet he was successful stallion and had a good sire son you may have heard of named Broad Brush. Candy Ride isn't by a 'sire of sires' in Argentina, yet he is throwing gobs of talented runners. Same thing for Cee's Tizzy and Tiznow. Do not get hung up on the 'sire of sires' thing, which is advertising-speak, not a breeding concept. In most cases, pedigree without performance isn't worth more, just because some of a sire's good performers became good sires.

Actually, many sires become successful BECAUSE they are not more of the same thing, like Ahonoora and his sons in Britain/Ireland and Monsun on the Continent.

09 Sep 2010 12:50 PM

Very well said, RachelLover!  I agree with every word you said about Mine That Bird.  My heart broke for him too and I was watching him instead of QR, even though I do love QR.  I don't think MTB is a great horse but he is a very good one with so much heart.  He could be an Einstein - around for years winning just enough for you to know that he can. What I don't understand is why he trains so well but falters during a race.  The Woodward is a throw-out for him - on the pace and blinkers!! Give me a break!  He's a closer.

I'm looking forward to reading all your commentary about the Breeders Cup, Steve.  I haven't been since 1999 and can't wait to FINALLY experience Zenyatta.

09 Sep 2010 1:54 PM

Ann in Lexington.....of course Giacomo "could" become a good sire, but the odds are against it.  That's all I meant.  Zenyatta is is too valuable to send her to him.  A.P. Indy is getting up in years and she will probably go to him or Giants Causeway first.  If Giacomo surprises and is a top sire, there is plenty of time to send Zenyatta to him.  Giacomo did not show enough consistency on the track to make me believe he will be a top sire.  I would go to Holy Bull before I went to Giacomo as he is a proven sire, but even he is not setting the world on fire.  I am hard on stallions, but this toughness pays dividends.  I am surprised every now and then, but as a rule, not too often.

Broad Brush "earned" his way to the top as Giacomo will have to do.  It is possible, but I am not holding my breath.

09 Sep 2010 2:57 PM

I would love to see Zen go to Tiznow. I don't know alot about pedigree breeding, but that baby would probibly be a spitting image of her since her and Tiznow look so similar. How cute, just like Rags' first baby looked just like her.

09 Sep 2010 4:24 PM

Steve -

Thanks for highlighting Tell a Kelly's performance!  Her burst out of the pack gave me chills.  

And thanks for your take on MTB.  As others have said, it was too weird seeing MTB that close to the leaders, how could he not tail off?  He's a closer, let him be a closer.  I just wonder if he's not in race shape considering the new weight he's carrying.

stevebiscuit - I love the idea of Rachel and Zen teaming up in the Classic!  It's a VERY fun thought!  I also think your take on QR is right - I don't think he'll have someone to track (unless some of the Candy Ride's show up) and that will hurt him.

Runfast159 - I can't believe Asmussen's luck.  It is heartbreaking.

John - Unfortunately, the World Rankings don't work like the NTRA Poll.  She'll be dropping until the Breeder's Cup and hopefully that performance will put her at the top among ACTIVE horses.  Harbinger's number seems out of reach.

Oldie - Generally I agree that you can't fight a TB as it just ticks them off, but the first thing I thought of when I read your post was Sea The Stars and his Arc run last October.  If you haven't seen that race, it's worth looking up.  He fought his rider big time early in the race, so much so that I thought he was cooked.

Steve Haskin - You can spell my name wrong anytime!

Ann in Lexington - Thanks for sending me to Google again for more on Hindoo!  And he won 19 in a row!  How can race-offs NOT COUNT!  Mind boggling!

Dr D - On watching Zenyatta's Classic - I never think she's going to get there either.  I posted this on YouTube in the days after the race.  I'd watched it a million times, and I never thought she would pull it off.  The one thing that happens now EVERY time I watch the Classic - I just start laughing and I can't stop.  I rewind it to around the quarter pole, watch again, and just laugh.  It's just amazing.  

Paula - I don't think you need to worry about Blame, at least not until the JCGC!

10 Sep 2010 10:28 PM

If better horses want to get the spot that the washington park handicap provides maybe they should enter the race. I do agree that the wrong horse won the race though. Giant Oak had a horrendous trip gettting caught wide early and moving early. However if Giant Oak won I would see no reason why he shouldn't enter the classic. Runs well enough over churchill to compete with the top guys.

14 Sep 2010 2:42 PM

Hi gang, what I meant was in my humble opinion, I believe if entered in the Belmont as a 3 year old Zenyatta could have won it, had she started as a 2 year old. Her heart & strength is still yet to be measured, as the longer the race the better/faster she gets, unlike most horses. I must mention again, bring on all "comers", the only thing that can beat Zenyatta is sickness,cold, and a sloppy/muddy track. She just does'nt have any experience with those elements ! I agree with others here, on a dirt track she is even stronger and faster. Pray for good weather,and we'll let the "queen" speak for herself. Easteners are in for a real treat! Go Zenyatta !!!

22 Sep 2010 2:00 PM

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