A Fast, But Oddly Paved Road


With all the talk surrounding the Zenyatta – Blame Horse of the Year battle, the brilliant, but sometimes strange career of Quality Road has unfortunately faded from public consciousness, due in good part to the colt’s uncharacteristic last-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

But Quality Road’s name resurfaced recently when his owner/breeder Edward P. (Ned) Evans passed away following a brief illness. As Diana Baker, wife of Evans’ farm manager Chris Baker, said, “Ned Evans was larger than life. We all learned a lot from him. That he died before seeing any of Quality Road’s foals hit the ground is so sad. He worked for so long to breed a horse like Quality Road. What a legacy he leaves behind.”

No one who has followed Quality Road’s career could have foreseen its ignominious conclusion. After nearly two months, it still remains a mystery, and likely always will.

Who knows what course his career would have taken had it not been for a series of bizarre twists and turns, an ill-timed series of quarter cracks, and a quirky personality as a 3-year-old that saw him wage a personal battle with the starting gate, which nearly ended in disaster. Anyone who had the distinct pleasure of being around this gentle giant with the English sheepdog forelocks covering his eyes had to be shocked and perplexed watching him throw one of the scariest fits in the history of the sport prior to the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

But that incident has now become merely a footnote in what was at times a career of unmatched brilliance.

“He’s always been a gift, starting with the gift to Mr. Evans from the racing gods when this sucker was born,” Chris Baker said. “And he’s been a gift to everyone else who’s been fortunate enough to be around him.”

As a baby, Quality Road was tall and elegant, and on the lanky side. He was a kind horse who was a pleasure to be around, and most important, he was problem free. He never got hurt and never got sick, and everything came easy to him. Although he was always athletic, he was never what you would call a standout; one that you knew was destined to be something special.

He was more of a late developer and wasn’t sent to Aiken, S.C. to be broken and begin training until early December as a yearling. The only reason he was even sent to Aiken was because he failed to meet his reserve at the Keeneland September yearling sale. He wasn’t the kind of yearling buyers were looking for. He was still immature physically and was far from the heavily muscled, big-hip type of colt that was most desirable. His sire, Elusive Quality, wasn’t a commercial stallion, despite siring Smarty Jones, and his dam, Kobla, hadn’t accomplished enough for buyers to give him the benefit of the doubt. It was decided to bring him home to Evans’ Spring Hill Farm in Casanova, Va. and let him grow up.

After being sent to Ron Stevens in Aiken, Quality Road and another Evans homebred, American Dance, began showing some ability. When Baker went down to see them, he wrote that he was impressed how easily they both went and how much ground they covered, even going short distances.

“Did Ron Stevens and I look at them and say we’ve got two freaks on our hands? Baker said. “No, we looked at them and said, ‘There are two athletic colts in spite of their size and legginess’. The ingredients all seemed to be there, but we didn’t see either one of them as potential stars at that point.”

Stevens, however, did see a good number of things to like about Quality Road. “He was an extremely large yearling and I know that scares a lot of people off,” he recalled. “But he was very balanced and had a good way of moving. After he got over the pressure of the sales, he was sent to me on Dec. 4. At that time he was already over 16 hands, and I weighed him and he weighed 1,120 pounds…as a yearling! He was a great big ‘ol boy, but everything fit together. He kept growing steadily and smoothly rather than in spurts.”

When Evans sent Quality Road to Stevens he told him he wanted him to push him, because he still had intentions of selling him at the Keeneland April 2-year-old sale. The Keeneland inspectors came to the farm and liked what they saw and accepted him.

Stevens, however, felt it would be a mistake to sell him. The colt had shown class from day one and was a pleasure to break. His disposition was fabulous and he was extremely light on his feet for such a big horse.

“Chris Baker came down a couple of times in February and we agreed that we needed to advise Mr. Evans not to sell this horse,” Stevens said. “He was just too nice a colt, both physically and mentally. I told Chris, ‘This horse is gonna come back and haunt Mr. Evans if he sells him.’

“To Mr. Evans’ credit, he listened to Chris and me and dropped him out of the sale. He told me to take my time with him and do whatever I wanted to do. I brought him around slowly, like we do with all big horses. He had a few breezes and I loved what I saw. I’d be lying if I told you that I knew he’d be the kind of horse he turned into, but I felt he was a very high class, high quality horse. And I’d love to say we did a great job of breaking him, but I think my granddaughter could have broken him. He was a pussycat and nothing but class. He didn’t have a pimple on him from the day he got here.”

Quality Road left Aiken on July 13 and was sent to trainer Jimmy Jerkens in New York.

Fast forward to Nov. 29, 2008, Cigar Mile day at Aqueduct. Word was already circulating throughout the pressbox that Jimmy Jerkens had a red-hot first time starter in the fourth race that was supposed to be runner. Prior to the race, jockey Richie Migliore informed anyone who would listen that Quality Road was all but a sure thing. Migliore had been working the colt regularly since September. The Mig loved the way he glided over the ground, especially with that long, efficient stride. Despite his size and stride, he was very light on his feet and always went faster than Mig thought he was going. And on top of that he was extremely intelligent and professional for a young horse.

“Something would happen that would spook 90% of the horses, and he would just stop and look at it quizzically, then drop his head and go on about his business,” Migliore said. “That’s something you can’t teach; it’s something the good horses seem to possess. From the first time I got on him I thought he was the complete package.”

Unfortunately for Migliore, he had been booked to ride Desert Code in California the same day and was disappointed he couldn’t ride Quality Road after putting in so much time with him. As it turned out, Desert Code was withdrawn from his race with a fever, but by then, Evans had decided to use another rider, and Jerkens reluctantly gave the mount to Alan Garcia, as Migliore was forced to watch the race from the rail.

Even after Quality Road turned in a super effort to win by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:16 for the six and a half furlongs, earning a lofty 101 Beyer figure, Jerkens was upset that Migliore wasn’t able to ride the colt. “I felt bad for Richie because he had worked him all the way up to the race,” Jerkens said. “Mr. Evans likes to know who’s riding his horses, so once it looked like Richie was gone I had to nail down another good jock.”

After being beaten in an allowance race at Gulfstream at 7-10 after having suffered from a lung infection, Quality Road catapulted to the head of the 3-year-old division with impressive victories in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) and Florida Derby (gr. I), the latter in a track record 1:47 3/5.

“He’s such a dream to train, it’s unbelievable,” Jerkens said. “He’s done everything so perfectly.”

One trainer who was in awe of Quality Road was Bob Baffert, who is always on the lookout for Derby horses, either to train or just scouting out the competition. “That horse is a serious bastard,” Baffert said after the Florida Derby. “If they gave me a free shot and handed me a halter and a shank and said to take whatever horse I wanted, I’d go get Quality Road. He’s a big, imposing horse, with a lot of flesh and a great mind. That’s what you want. That’s a Derby horse.”

Quality Road’s role as Kentucky Derby favorite, however, lasted only a short while, as he suffered a pair of nasty quarter cracks back at Belmont Park that would sideline him for over four months. During his absence, Evans decided to switch trainers and gave the colt to Todd Pletcher, a move that was devastating to Jerkens.

“Mr. Evans just felt it was time to go in a different direction,” Baker said. “Periodically, Mr. Evans does some expanding and consolidating of his stable in regard to the trainers, and he felt a change was necessary at this time.”

As brilliant as Quality Road was at Gulfstream, his return in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga was jaw-dropping, as he drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths in a blazing 1:13 4/5, shattering the track record.

As Chris Baker said after the race, “He’s had five starts in his life and has two track records, one at 6 1/2 furlongs and one at 1 1/8 miles. What’s going to happen when he figures out how to run?”

Also on the Quality Road bandwagon was veterinarian Steve Allday. “He’s a monster,” he said. “As big and strong as he is, he’s a gentle giant. He is so physically gifted he can reach up with a hind leg and actually tattoo you if you’re standing next to his elbow, so I’m real careful when I examine him. If he ever figured out he’s the beast that he is, believe me, he could hurt you, but he’s just too nice and classy a horse.”

The Amsterdam, however, turned out to be Quality Road’s final victory of 2009. It was too much to ask of the colt running him back in the 1 1/4-mile Travers Stakes off one sprint following a layoff. And the track for the Travers came up a sea of slop, which further hurt his chances. He still ran a solid third to Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird after getting bogged down on the inside.

Quality Road didn’t get any breaks in the Jockey Club Gold Cup either, as that race also came up sloppy. This time, Quality Road ran his heart out to finish second to Summer Bird, giving way grudgingly to be beaten a length.

Then came the infamous Breeders’ Cup Classic. Quality Road had been exhibiting an aversion to the starting gate in his previous starts, and it took some prodding to get him to go in for the Gold Cup. He had always shown a dual personality on and off the track. On the track, he could exhibit a competitive fire, but in his stall he was a kind horse who loved people, especially when they had a carrot for him.

“How many colts who have that kind of energy can you walk in their stall and put your 9-year-old daughter underneath him and they won’t do a thing?” Chris Baker said. “I remember at Saratoga, there were about 10 people standing right outside his stall looking at him. He just lied down and took a little nap for a few minutes, then got up, yawned, and stuck his head out the door. On the track, he gets that adrenalin going and gets so pumped  up, but once he gets back to the barn he switches it right off.”

Prior to the Gold Cup, Pletcher had attempted to work on the colt’s gate problems in the morning. He did everything possible to get him to exhibit the same reluctance to go in the gate he had showed in the afternoon, but Quality Road apparently knew the difference between morning and afternoon and would walk in with no problem. Even following the Gold Cup, in which he balked badly going into the gate, he was perfect in the morning, giving Pletcher no opportunity to correct the problem.

Whatever the reason for his gate antics (some believed he was claustrophobic due to his size), the tantrum he threw prior to the Classic will be a subject for discussion for many years. The situation was exacerbated when one of the assistant starters used a buggy whip to get him in. Because all the other horses were already in the gate, they had to resort to a blindfold and that really set the colt off. He threw a fit after being pushed into the gate, banging hard against the sides of the gate. He became so agitated, he lunged forward and broke through the front doors. With the blindfold still on, he panicked and was totally out of control. Had he gotten loose from the assistant starter, who held on tenaciously, it certainly would have been disastrous. One had to shudder trying to imagine a panicked, blindfolded horse running loose, and with hundreds of people lined up behind the rail right near the gate.

Quality Road, who finally settled down when the blindfold and saddle were removed, naturally was scratched, but that was only the beginning of his problems. He was immediately labeled as a “juvenile delinquent” by veterinarian Larry Bramlage, a comment that was so totally off base it was a huge injustice to the horse, who was more frightened than anything else.

His problems continued prior to his return flight to New York. The colt, who suffered several injuries thrashing about in the gate, was so traumatized by the incident he would not get on the plane to take him back home to New York, and instead had to van 36 hours to Churchill Downs, stay there for 48 hours and then van to Belmont Park, where former NYRA starter Bobby Duncan would work with the colt at the gate on a regular basis. If he failed to rid him of his demons and the mental trauma he suffered, there was a good chance Quality Road would never get in a starting gate again.

When the colt finally returned to New York, Duncan proceeded to work his magic.

“I had never seen the horse before, and like everyone else I watched it on television and saw everything spin out of control,” Duncan said.

Duncan began working with him and found him to be “a sweetheart without a mean bone in his body.” He deduced that Quality Road was a dominant type of horse who wants to be the leader and be right at the top of the pecking order. Because he was always allowed to do what he wanted, that reinforced his dominance and let him know he was the one making all the decisions. Duncan felt the Breeders’ Cup incident became a battle of wills between the colt and the gate crew, especially after they used the buggy whip on him.

“The night before I started schooling him at the gate I took him to the paddock with Todd and just asked him to move around in different ways using certain signals I was consistent with. I would ask him to back up for me, to come forward, to move left and right. I kept repeating it until he began to learn from subtle movements. If I pointed my finger at his hip he knew he needed to move his hip to the left. The more subtle it became the more calm he was with it. You just have to be consistent the way you ask and get him to understand the language between the two of you.”

Quality Road was immediately responsive. A few days later Duncan took him to the training track gate to have the starter work with him. He made sure it would be quiet to see what kind of reaction he would get. Pletcher even brought another horse over as company. Quality Road was a little hesitant to walk in at first, so Duncan opened the front gate and let him walk halfway in and then backed him out. He wanted to do a little bit more each time looking for that point where the colt showed resistance. As it turned out, there was no point of resistance, as Quality Road did everything he was asked.

The next step was to bring him to Aqueduct, and that was done in stages. On the second day they did van schooling as well, loading him on the van at the barn and vanning him over to the grandstand with another horse. They led him off the van and brought him to the paddock with other horses around. They even saddled him and put a rider on his back before walking him around the paddock and on to the main track and then to the training track and back to the barn. This was as close as they could come to simulating real race conditions.

On the fourth day they did a full dress rehearsal. They loaded him in the gate with horses on either side of him and closed the front gate. Then they vanned him over to Aqueduct again and had him spend the whole morning in the receiving barn as if he were in the race-day detention barn. They then took him to the paddock in the afternoon, put a saddle and rider on him, and had the pony boy bring him to the gate.

Quality Road adjusted so well, he never again caused a problem at the gate and was a totally different horse as a 4-year-old.

Thanks to Duncan’s work, Quality Road was able to have a brilliant 4-year-old campaign, winning the Hal’s Hope and Donn Handicap at Gulfstream. In the latter, he won by 12 3/4 lengths and broke his own track record, earning a spectacular 121 Beyer figure. He returned after a 3 1/2-month layoff to win the prestigious Met Mile in a sizzling 1:33 flat, giving seven pounds to the classy Musket Man.

He suffered a surprising defeat in the Whitney, getting nailed right on the wire by Blame, but came back to win the Woodward (gr. I) by 4 3/4 lengths.

It was ironic seeing him in the gate prior to the Whitney, calmly standing there watching Haynesfield break through the gate unseating his rider. Quality Road never turned a hair. Those nightmare days were officially behind him.

Much was expected in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but for reasons still unknown, he dropped out of contention after three-quarters, finishing dead last. It was odd, to say the least, to have that kind of performance follow on the heels of the Life At Ten incident; certainly one of the most bizarre occurrences ever seen before and during a major race. The bottom line is that we likely will never know the reasons why two classy, consistent horses both turned in such horrible performances.

Despite its disappointing conclusion and controversial moments, Quality Road’s career will be remembered more for its amazing flashes of brilliance. And the horse himself will be remembered fondly by those close to him for his endearing personality and overwhelming presence. One thing you can say about Quality Road: he was never boring.

There have been few horses quite like Quality Road, and as Diana Baker said, he will always be the crowning legacy to Ned Evans and the empire he built out of nothing.

112 Comments

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FSF

I don't think it's that strange- I always thought he was overrated. I just never found myself rooting for him, and am not all that sad to see him go (except we'll have yet another lightly raced horse in the stud barn, which I'm not thrilled to see). Sure, he showed brilliance. But he just didn't show up in enough big races to get that excited about...perhaps a case where "quantity" could have influenced perceptions of "quality" ;)

03 Jan 2011 2:57 PM
Jerry Engler

Thanks for a great recap and behind the scenes look at the career of Quality Road. I was a real fan of his from the start. He should be remembered as one of the top five raw talents in the early part of this century. What a tribute he was to his breeder, Ned Evans, one of the last of the old school breeders in this country. Thanks again for this timely synopsis.

03 Jan 2011 3:08 PM
August Song

The mistake was Evans decision to turn Quality Road from Jimmy Jerkens to Todd Pletcher. That was the worse decision he could have made. Too many good horses were never the same with Pletcher training them, too many breakdowns and too many issues. Friends of mine, first noticed this problem. The horses run one or two good races and are never the same.

03 Jan 2011 3:08 PM
Robert

Quality Road is a super nice horse.  I believe he suffered from a physical makeup that lead many to say he was a miler, but his trainer would not keep him at the distances he was most effective at.  Even if he ran in the Derby, I still believe he would have hit the board.  WHile his pedigree says he should have no problem with 1 1/4 miles, his Phenotype (Physical makeup) says otherwise.  He will probably be a nice sire if the mares sent to him have a little more stamina than speed.  He doesn't need any more of that.  I also wonder why he was run so sparingly?  And why was he never tried on turf.  Talk about turf breeding....this guy has it in spades.  I believe it was a mistake for Evans to send the horse to Pletcher.  Pletcher has a reputation for being needlessly hard on horses and if Q.R was unsound in any way, Pletcher surely did not help that out.  

03 Jan 2011 3:08 PM
Freetex

Great piece on Quality Road.

Perhaps staying with Jerkens was key for Quality Road's advancement but who knows with any certainty.

The gate incident at the 2009 Breeders Cup was disastrous and badly handled by all except the astute handler who caught QR and removed the blindfold.  The outcome could have had seriously damaging results for Quality Road, the workers, the fans, and all of racing.  

03 Jan 2011 3:10 PM
Matthew W

Steve the JC Gold Cup, when he had first run and was inhaled by Summer Bird--that showed me--1 1/4, he would need an easy field--not the best--the Classic was a miss-play---he was a miler--a great miler! One of the greats...

03 Jan 2011 3:18 PM
wee-o

Very strange he just up and disappeared after almost stopping in front of the Queen causing her to lose those precious steps.  Often wonder what really happened to him and another puzzlement is Rachel Alexandra.  They just fade away.......

03 Jan 2011 3:19 PM
Smoking Baby

 I'm just glad we can finally put to rest all of that "Beast From The East" nonsense.  In the four biggest races of his career he failed in three and failed to start in the fourth.  

03 Jan 2011 3:35 PM
ace

That response seems a bit harsh.   I don't think you can call a horse with track records or near track records at three differences overrated.   To me he epitomizes the brilliance and fragility of the modern male racehorse, including a career which, I agree with you, was cut too short.  

03 Jan 2011 3:36 PM
TJLuvsTizs

I always admired Quality Road from afar, but was never a huge fan of his.  

I really enjoyed the story behind him, including his owners and handlers.  

He may be remembered as a bit of an enigma who showed flashes of brilliance setting and beating his own track records, but not able to win at the classic distance in the classic races.

I figure it all came down to the dreaded Draynay curse!

03 Jan 2011 3:39 PM
Barbara W

If I remember correctly, Zenyatta had a problem with the starting gate briefly as well that day. People make fun of remarks about the helicopter, but if it's low enough to hear on tv, and it was stirring up dirt, it was too close. Remember, horses are prey animals. When a horse acts up , he is almost always trying to tell us something. Many times, unfortunately, no one is willing to pay attention.

03 Jan 2011 3:45 PM
Blue Blue Sea

Thanks for this fine article on one of my favorite recent runners - I'm always particular to Alydar line horses and they all seem to have a little quirkiness.

03 Jan 2011 3:45 PM
Paulette

I love Quality Road & was so bummed when he was scratched for the Derby, its a shame his injuries kept us fom seeing all his potential. I knew he was scared in the gate-who would'nt be if you can't see & being shoved. I hope to see him one day to hug the Big Guy! Hop he enjoys retirement & gives us great foals with no Quarter Cracks! Paulette

03 Jan 2011 3:48 PM
DBH

I really liked him, but always felt he would be better suited to the Dirt Mile, not the Classic at a mile and a quarter.  I do nto think he got to show his brilliance.

03 Jan 2011 3:54 PM
txhorsefan

Thank you for exploring and explaining Quality Road, a horse I know you've previously described as a gentle giant.  I wish he had been more consistent and maybe we could have seen more of his brilliance rather than the few glimpses we were given on a few occasions.  I was very sad to read about the passing of Mr. Evans and there is sadness also that Quality Road is retired now and we will never know what his potential could have been.

03 Jan 2011 4:02 PM
Deby

I've seen Quality Road in person twice at Saratoga.  I always have rooted for him.  Let's see if anyone can match or beat his Amsterdam Stakes record, I bet NOT.  He got a bad rap from the 2009 BC with the gate issue and that never did happen again with him. Who knows what happened with him regarding the 2010 BC.  Everyone thought Zenyatta was unbeatable that day, but she wasn't, that's horse racing.

03 Jan 2011 4:18 PM
Johnny

Nice Steve:

Gulfstream is my home track and I first saw Q.R in the paddock the first thing I noticed about him was the "Sheepdog forlocks".

03 Jan 2011 4:21 PM
kurt

does seem kinda ironic that two of the mist bizarre performances..or lack of,,both came from pletcher horses. 2 months later and nothing has come of LAT investigation into pletcher. its a shame that just because he wins alot of races and  is the media darling come triple crown time, that this guys hasnt been held accountable in any way..and racing wonders why its in the state its in now. as for QR. had the oppertunity to see him at lanes end the morning he got there.. hes a beautifull horse who will probably be a great stallion

03 Jan 2011 4:27 PM
Ranagulzion

Steve,

A wonderful tribute to an exceptional horse and his deceased owner.  Quality Road is one of the most exciting horses of the past two years that had many fans anticipating fireworks every time he ran, irrespective of the competition that showed up to challenge him.  He is such a handsome specimen of a thoroughbred, with the kind of imposing presence and class that matched his appearance, that it was hard for the true fan not to like him (apart from the east coast/west coast polemicists).  He stirred up a lot of pre and post race excitement and gave much to the sport wheteher he won or lost.  QR is a tribute to the late Ed Evans' ability as a breeder.  His pedigree is outstanding, top and bottom and I'm pretty sure that he'll eventually compensate for his out-of-character dull Breeder's Cup classic run with his performance at stud.  As a Raise a Native line sire he is definitely going to feature in the pedigree of future Triple Crown prospects and could also gain sweet redemption for missing out on the Kentucky Derby like other brilliant Raise a Native sires such as Street Cry and Maria's Mon by throwing a Derby winner.  That's my biggest wish for his stud career.  The king is now a stud, long live the king.

03 Jan 2011 4:32 PM
Tracy

I have always loved QR and thought he and Zenyatta would make some beautiful kids together.Hope he has a long healthy life!

03 Jan 2011 4:32 PM
Susie

Great article on one of my favorite horses.  There were two reasons why the Classic broke my heart.  Zenyatta came in second and Quality Road finished last.  In a perfect world, it would have been Z first, QR to place and who cares to show.

03 Jan 2011 4:36 PM
Rosita712

Thanks for this piece - I enjoyed walking down memory lane of his career, and once again grateful nothing too serious came out his scary-looking gate incident. Quality Road was long one of my favorites and I was glad to get to visit him at Lane's End right after the Breeders' Cup.

03 Jan 2011 4:40 PM
OldDog

Always a fan of this horse, but thanks to this piece I now know a lot more about him.  I don't get to listen to all the ATR shows, but I'm surprised that I never heard the Mig or Dr. Allday talk about him.  I had (perhaps unrealistic) high hopes for him in the last Classic, including him in my trifecta ticket, and was stunned to see him come in last.  I'm sad to see him retire, but glad he's retiring sound.

03 Jan 2011 4:56 PM
Rita Robinson

I love Quality Road and am so looking forward to meeting him at Lane's End this weekend.  Is he really as big as he looks on TV?  Can't wait to see him.  

03 Jan 2011 5:07 PM
jamie d

this horse will truly be one of the best stallions around. lanes end doesnt miss to much on the up and coming stallions. will someday sire a horse better than he was. wish i had a good mare.

03 Jan 2011 5:27 PM
Windy City

At first I wasn't crazy about him. He reminded me so much of Big Brown - my mad love :-) I was afraid to let him get a hold of my heart, but he won it before this infamous BC race. I felt so upset by the way they smacked him with that whip...I wouldn't load in that gate either if I was him. Later I was so happy to see his come back and I was rooting for him with all my heart...:-) I hope he'll make some history in the breeding shed :-)

Happy New Year everyone!

03 Jan 2011 5:41 PM
Sharon M

Steve, welcome back from vacation, (even if you're like me, and don't really want to be back!) and thank you for the article about Quality Road.  I'm not going to comment on trainers or how he ran his races.  I just want to say he has been one of the main reasons why horse racing has been so exciting for me the last few years.  I'll never forget his Donn Handicap win in 2010 after that disastrous gate incident in the Classic.  It was an amazing performance, and left me wondering what could have been in the 2009 Classic.  But that was not meant to be.  I wish him a long and fruitful stud career.  I have the feeling he's going to be a good one!

I was very sad to read of the passing of Mr. Evans. The sport has lost someone who bred and raced truly great racehorses such as Quality Road and St. Liam, among others.  May he RIP.  

03 Jan 2011 5:57 PM
Michelle

Thanks for a lovely tribute, as usual, eloquently expressed.

03 Jan 2011 5:58 PM
LauraJ

It's too bad he wasn't entered in the Dirt Mile. I believe he would have won. I wish him success as a sire and hope he passes his sweet temperament onto his foals.

03 Jan 2011 6:01 PM
Karen in Texas

Quality Road is/was one of my favorites. I know Mr. Evans was very proud of him, and it's sad that he won't get to see the QR foals. I have a feeling he will be exceptional in the breeding shed. Thanks, Steve, for recapping his career. I choose to remember him as brilliant.

03 Jan 2011 6:20 PM
Mj Hawk

Thanks, Steve. I am glad you were able to show the other side to Quality Road. He was a brilliant horse who seemed to run into bad patches, but no rogue.  It was frightening to see him in the 2009 Breeder's Cup, but he survived and came back and ran beautifully.  I'd watch him, looking for trouble, and he'd just cruise into the gate.  

Unbeatable on his best day.  I hope he passes on his brilliance to his progeny.  

03 Jan 2011 6:25 PM
hoofprintsandhorseplay

Quality Road show the same brilliance his sire showed.

I saw Elusive Quality run 7 furlongs in 1:20 flat on dirt and one mile on grass in 1:32 flat. Two running fools.

I can only hope he passes on that blazing speed which they both shared.

03 Jan 2011 6:44 PM
YanYard

Nice article Steve. It'spretty obvious that his connections wanted to make him something he's not. Turning a miler into a mile and quarter horse proved to be too difficult.

I would suspect that if Goldikova runs in next years Classic or Arc you will be asking the same question about her?

03 Jan 2011 7:13 PM
Linda in Texas

It is wonderful to have you back in the saddle with us Steve on this 3rd day of January 2011.

I remember well when QT met with the forces of a hovering helicopter and the comments made as to his juvenile delinquintism, but i still feel in my heart he had never had a helicopter hanging over any gate before. Other horses just weren't as on guard as he was and he noticed it. I stuck by him and never faulted him and i hoped he would come back and load the gate in due time and he did.

And i am glad Mr. Evans did not give up on him either, The '09 and '10 BC's had to be disappointments for Mr. Evans, but just like we do with wayward children, he did not let his support lapse for a little bump in Quality Road's path to maturity.

As for his non participatory attitude in '10 Breeder's Cup, that is one i haven't figured out.

Only QR knows and he will keep the secret to himself.

Yet, all and still, he is a beautiful stallion. Just something stunning about the way he carries his neck and head. He is a looker!

And will no doubt sire beautiful foals.

If i were lucky enough to have a

racehorse, i would find the most

sincere,down to earth quiet and non public trainer i could find. One who does not have to see his name in lights and in magazines all the time, but only as the trainer of a winner then go back to training! That would be the one i would want to entrust my racehorse to. Off the top of my head, Mr. Charles Whittingham comes to mind immediately.

Thanks for the article on Quality Road Steve, it brings a quiet reflection on a horse who did not get to show his talents on the tracks, perhaps he will make up for it other ways.

And A Happy 'Hanginite' New Year to everybody.

On another subject,though not a happy one:

Steve, any word on what caused War Pass's death yet? Last i heard the 'preliminary necropsy' is inconclusive.

03 Jan 2011 7:13 PM
shuttleworth

Steve:

As always, you are right on... thanks for the little tribute to Quality Road. He was definitely a puzzling horse; but on his best days, he was spectacular! In some ways, he reminded me of George Washington - inconsistently brilliant - fortunately he did not meet GW's tragic end...

03 Jan 2011 7:30 PM
LaurieK

I'm sorry QR did not get to show his best in the last 2 BC Classics.  I suspect he would have been in over his head both times anyway, what with so many first-class distance specialists signed up, but I think he would have given a good account of himself, and with is quality speed, would undoubtedly have had a major say in the way the race set up and played out.  

03 Jan 2011 7:32 PM
SaratogaSinner

As a huge fan of Quality Road's, I thank you for this piece.  I maintain it was the depth of the Saratoga track that caused his lackluster performances there this summer.  One thing that can't be argued is that when he was on, he was on.  That, and that he had the best forelock on the racetrack. :)

03 Jan 2011 7:33 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Another brilliant (at times) miler sent to the breeding shed at a tender age. I would have liked to see him run another year but the huge stud dollars are too tempting. Sigh. The fans will have to look forward to his babies now. Hopefully he passes along his speed and not his feet.

I emplore those who think that the assistant starters were at fault for QR's freakout in the 2009 BCC to check again. QR was kicking at anyone that even came near him before the assistant starter ever grabbed his bridle. Look it up. The video is on YouTube. They did NOT ever hit any horse with the buggy whip. The starters did nothing extreme or mean to any of the horses in any of the races. They were just trying to load a  reluctant and cantankerous horse. 99 out of 100 times a blindfold will relax and calm a horse. Watch how nicely he walked in to the gate once the blindfold was on? Unfortunately it made QR upset when he felt the gate padding touch his sides and then he exploded. And remember, every other horse managed to sucessfully endure the chaos of the races those two days. QR had no target on his back by any camera crews or helicopters.

Dr. Bramlage probably shouldn't have called QR a juvenile delinquent because he is not. But with QR's previous antics at the gate before races I think the vet was trying to explain the scary situation for the viewing public with a lightened description.

Sometimes horses (and people) just have an off day. It doesn't mean that the individual is crazy or instigated into an unusual behavior. They are living, thinking beings with personalities, quirks and emotions. We will probably never know what set him off. Mostly, I'm just glad he wasn't seriously injured. Kudos to the Assistant starter, Mr. Hungerford, for holding QR and pulling the blindfold in a tough situation that nobody took any delight in watching.

Good luck in your new career Quality Road. I think you are gonna like this job!

03 Jan 2011 7:55 PM
Barbara W

Linda in Texas--

This Barbara in Texas agrees with you completely. I almost mentioned (and I'm glad others did) the change in trainers. We've seen so many not improve after a change. It makes me wonder what people are thinking.

At the BCC 2010, I remember the announcers questioning his entry in that particular race. I also agree that I would look for a "non-superstar" trainer who would have hands on daily contact with my horse. That's one reason I'm so crazy about John Shirreffs.

I've always thought QR is a beautiful horse, and if I had a mare and could afford it, I would breed to him gladly.

Thank you for this article, Steve.

03 Jan 2011 8:20 PM
tvnewsbadge

Heads should have rolled after that gate incident, but I guess we always have to blame the horse.

03 Jan 2011 8:30 PM
Lmaris

Quality Road was mishandled by the Santa Anita gate crew who certainly earned their reputation as a bunch of cowboy bullies rather than horsemen that day.

Zenyatta showed resistance because the gate began to close on her rib cage as she entered.  It was then held open for her and she went in calmly afterwards.  However when QR began to go in, it wasn't held for him and crimped him more significantly.  

Then, after whomping at him with whips and lead ropes, the crew decides on a blindfold.  Not a bad plan except they turned him around just once and attempted to run him in.  He knew exactly where he was so the blindfold just increased his irritation.  Had they taken another 15-30 seconds and walked him in a figure 8 or a few circles he likely would have relaxed.

But as for 2010?  I don't think it is a coincidence that the two surprisingly bad performances came from Pletcher's barn.  QR had no problem with the distance (as some here attempt to claim).  He just was in a problem barn.

I look forward to seeing him in a few years and hope he's still the sweet teddy bear he's always been.

03 Jan 2011 8:45 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, I came home from work dragging (I am a R.N.). Ate dinner and then hit the internet/Bloodhorse. I go right to your article and once again I am enthralled and reinvigorated by your wonderful piece on Quality Road. You have made this amazing and sweet horse's story come alive. By the way, who knew he was so sweet? I sure didn't.  I have always been a fan of this horse. I thought he had incredible bursts of brilliance, but wondered about his distance limitations. When he had that very frightening incident at the gate, I thought for sure he was going to be badly injured, but by the grace of GOD he wasn't. I agree with those who wonder how he would have done if he had stayed with Jerkins. I am one of these people who think moving horses around without a very good reason is not a good idea. Leave them where they are thriving. It is something I admire about Jerry and Ann Moss. That does not mean I think Todd Pletcher isn't a great trainer; he is. But moving them from familiar surroundings where they are happy makes no sense to me. In any event, I cannot account for his last place finish in the BCC. But I will say this, I don't think running under the lights, at that distance, was his idea of a a day at the beach. It is what I call a "throw away" performance. You throw it away because it is inexplicable and out of character. It is not how I will remember him. But instead as a phenomenally talented and physically gifted horse, especially at shorter distances.

03 Jan 2011 9:20 PM
Dawn in MN

Mr Haskin,  Thank you for this insight into Quality Road's history and temperment.  I remember looking at his three-year-old profile and watching the replays of his Kentucky Derby prep-races.  I liked Quality Road's looks, his build and his stride.  It's nice to learn more about Quality Road.  By the time people started talking about him again in 2010 I had lost some confidence in him.  I was worried about his psyche and soundness.  I am really glad to hear that his temperment is good, it increases his chances of enjoying his off-track life.    

03 Jan 2011 9:27 PM
Teezee

it was good to read the real story about Quality Road. I was really ticked when he did have the melt down in the Breeder's Cup, but it was great how he behaved when he was retrained and got his demons out.

He should have been allowed to race more because we don't really no how good he is. Just when it seemed he had his act together, he had a terrible race in the second Breeder's Cup finishing last. So who is the real Quality Road? Did he just melt down at the Breeder's Cup and why? Would be nice to know why.

03 Jan 2011 9:45 PM
John T

When a horse is a Grade 1 Winner

like Quality Road,it,s always best to remember them on how they performed at that level.Obviously

for whatever reason Quality Road was not at himself in the Breeders

Cup Classic.

03 Jan 2011 9:45 PM
sentinel

It was good to get to know Quality Road and I wish him luck at stud.

I hate it when owners shuffle horses around like chess pieces.  It must break a trainer's heart to lose animals like Quality Road or Rachel Alexandra.

03 Jan 2011 10:01 PM
August Song

Let's be perfectly clear, Evans was selling Quality Road as a yearling at the Keeneland sale but, because they did not meet the reserve that he had established for him, the horse was withdrawn. I don't believe the reserve was all that challenging. Which makes one wonder, if one had that much faith in a horse like Quality Road, would you have put the horse in the sale in the first place? Evans was wealthly, and certainly didn't need the money. It appears Stevens and Baker had way more of a belief in Quality Road than Evans did. Evans was just lucky that no one at the Keeneland sale believed enough in Quality Road to buy him. Such is how, some of the success in horseracing is determined. Remember that flip of the coin determining who would own Secretariat, and who guessed wrong?

03 Jan 2011 10:02 PM
SusanA

Mr. Haskin,

I surely appreciate your writing about Quality Road...I love Z dearly, but am also a big, big fan of Quality Road and am going to miss him running. I actually bet on him to win the Breeders Cup and was just as excited to see him that day in the paddock as I was Zenyatta.  Truthfully, I took more pictures of him!(I was really hoping he would win if she didn't!) I think he is the most handsome horse....Zenyatta is not the only horse I hope to visit one day at Lanes End!He might be first on my my list! I truly felt so sad for his poor race in the BC.  I have always wondered what kind of "personality" he really had..to me he seemed really sweet and had the kindest eyes, but you never heard anybody talk about anything but the "bad" stuff, so thanks for sharing your insight! I hope he has a long, long, wonderful and successful retirement.

03 Jan 2011 10:07 PM
Heather_Biggest QR fan on the planet

I'm typing these comments through teary eyes. What a beautiful piece.   I fell in love with Quality Road in 2009 and was heartbroken during the BC during his mishap. But, I never doubted he would return to brilliance.   QR represents the greatness in all of us, as well as the imperfections.   He'll always be one of my favorites.  

Thanks, Steve, for doing him justice.

03 Jan 2011 10:11 PM
ZenFLA

Beautiful tribute to QR. I always loved that horse and thought he had the kindest eyes. Saw him run in the Hal's Hope at Gulfstream. Thanks for writing about him today.

03 Jan 2011 10:24 PM
heather

Saratoga Sinner, I could not agree more with your comment!! :)

03 Jan 2011 10:36 PM
needler in Virginia

Welcome back and happy new year, Steve. Hope you had a WONDERFUL vacation; my idea of that is to have QUIET....all the time!

Thanks for this lovely piece on Quality Road; always interesting and able to amaze, he really became an enigma at the '09 Classic. Clearly something was biting him that day and the buggy whip didn't help; I do NOT want to speculate on how truly horrific the result might have been had it not been for that fast, smart starter. Then we come to the '10 Classic, after Life at Ten's weird showing, and Quality Road craps out for no discernible reason, the Pletcher spectre really reared its' ugly head for me, at least. Two REALLY good runners, trained by the same man, not even showing up?? Something in Denmark was far beyond stinky. As you say, we'll never know but oh! how sad the words "what MIGHT have been........." I'm absolutely with the poster from above who wished for Zenyatta first, Quality Road a CLOSE second and who cares after that.

Thanks for another great story, well written (WHAT ELSE DO WE EXPECT? Chopped liver?) and a nice way to start the year.

Cheers and safe trips to all, especially Quality Road and Life at Ten......we're gonna miss their brilliance.

03 Jan 2011 10:44 PM
Zen4Zen

Thanks, Steve, for "remembering" this very talented and too quickly forgotten horse in a "but what have you done for me lately?" world.

I haven't compared his dam's pedigree with Smarty Jones'; Smarty, unlike QR, obviously could "get" 1-1/4 miles.  Do you think QR had distance limitations, perhaps suggested by his pedigree, that explain his two losses last year?

03 Jan 2011 10:57 PM
Gail

Strange isn't it, both Quality Road and Life at Ten were with Pletcher. It does make you wonder.

03 Jan 2011 11:05 PM
Karen in Indiana

Thank you for Quality Road's back story. He had been on my Derby list, mainly because Strawberry Road was his broodmare sire, and I felt sorrow when he was given to Mr. Pletcher. To me, Quality Road has been an example of what if...

The handlers at Santa Anita that day were handling the horses as if they were cattle - very businesslike and not much patience. It surprised me that they resorted to a whip so quickly. I don't think that would have happened at a New York track, they would have taken the time to calm him down first.

With his bloodlines, he should do very well at stud so hopefully one of his descendants will inherit his talent and be able to show it off better.

03 Jan 2011 11:12 PM
ctgreyhound

Quality Road: glimpses of greatness, a force to be reckoned with, a standout amongst his peers.  It was truly amazing that he & others escaped injury prior to the running of the 2009 Classic. Fate stepped in & pulled him from the synthetic track on which he would not have faired well. Quality Road wasn't the only remarkable runner to fall from grace in the 2010 Classic. Who can explain Haynesfield's dismal performance? Their lack of showing up only makes Zenyatta's achievement more inspiring.

04 Jan 2011 12:23 AM
Stephanie

I always liked QR, he is a good horse, I just don't think he is a mentally mature horse, He is so smart, so talented, but also he is only 4 and a young 4 emotionally....it just takes some longer than others to get with the program on a consistent basis....

04 Jan 2011 12:47 AM
TerriZ

What a wonderful article and tribute to Quality Road and his owner Ned Evans. What a first class team. Mr. Evans never gave up on him in spite of the quarter cracks and the gate issue at the BC.

Quality Road has been the King of Gulfstream Park. He not only bested his own track records he set at Gulfstream, he ran several of his most exciting races as well. I had hoped that Mr. Stronach would name a race for QR at Gulfstream.

I'll never forget his Florida Derby where he blew away Dunkirk. And he flew like Pegasus in the Donn Handicap.

I was about a yard away from him when he entered the ring in the Paddock in the Donn. He was focused and all business. And he looked like he could run all day; he recovered quickly from his races.

Ashame had been switched from Jerkins to Pletcher. And it's inexcusable that inadequate drug testing was done in Breeders Cup for Life at Ten and Quality Road; he was not right before that race. QR was not the same horse I saw at Gulfstream.

He's a magnificent horse with great genetics from his great grandsire Secretariat and his grandsire Strawberry Road. His conformation, intelligence, and personality harken back to those illustrius relatives.

I wonder if he will be shuttled to Australia due to his Strawberry Road connections.

It would be interesting if eventually he will mate with Zenyatta after the older boys have their chance; that mating would produce some horse.

Thanks again. And have fun in the Zenisphere this month at Lane's End. Please say hi to Quality Road, Curlin, and AP Indy at LE after visiting with the Queen.

04 Jan 2011 3:19 AM
MJH

I think this passage is probably the key to decoding QR's entire career:

"[Duncan] deduced that Quality Road was a dominant type of horse who wants to be the leader and be right at the top of the pecking order. Because he was always allowed to do what he wanted, that reinforced his dominance and let him know he was the one making all the decisions."

The colt was terrible at handling any kind of adversity.  If everything went his way, he could do amazing things.  If he was challenged -- by horses or people -- he folded like a bad hand.  

In spite of his brilliant physical ability, I'm not sure I'd want to breed to a stud with so little heart.

04 Jan 2011 7:38 AM
Susan

Thanks Steve, for another great and insightful article. Quality Road was a brilliant runner, and just the type I would breed to if I had the chance. Love his pedigree and his natural speed. Maybe not quite the mile and a quarter horse, but his get will will a ton of races.

As far as his Breeder's Cup, isn't it a possibility that he and LAT might have been coming down with something, and therefore the poor performances? That would be my take. Though I don't think the Classic was the right spot for him either, his trainer does not typically make errors in spotting his horses.

Anyway, my prediction... QR is going to be a very successful stallion.  

04 Jan 2011 8:42 AM
Cris

Quality Road was the most outstanding horse I have ever seen and it seems a complete shame to me he was not run with a more complete program in mind. I think that comes from moving the horse from rider to rider and trainer to trainer. Such a waste of talent. What he could have done! What he did! I hope he will carry his talent to his get. God, what a gift

he had. Some breeders get alot of credit for insight that may not be as deserved as one might think. Remember Northern Dancer did not bring a price as a yearling either, and that was the only reason the breeder kept him. What a fool he would have looked like if he was sold for nothing. The planets smash together for reasons unknown and save some of us from  ourselves. How wonderful when that happens.

I will say that both QR & SJ have suffered from foot problems although blessed with speed. For a breeder that is an issue that must not be overlooked.

04 Jan 2011 8:51 AM
racingheart

Quality Road. My favorite three year old at the beginning of the season in 2009. So many sad mishaps in his career. But as you said, the flashes of brilliance - and there were many - made him a serious horse at all times. Road was not overrated. He was a gifted and talented horse with a fire in his eye when he flew down that stretch like few others have. It truly is sad that his career ended on a bad note but I will always remember him for the thrills he gave me when he was ON.

Much love to the Road and I hope that his progeny shine as brightly as the Old Man!

04 Jan 2011 9:12 AM
BlueHen

I like Quality Road a LOT -- was glad he recovered from his BC Classic gate incident.  Thank you for writing about his personality.  I always enjoy that kind of thing.  He sounds like a pleasant horse to be around.  Hope he has a successful career at stud!

04 Jan 2011 9:27 AM
Slew

I never really wanted to like Quality Road, thinking he was over-hyped.  But after seeing him in the Amsterdam and the Met Mile, there was no denying his brilliance.  He's a gorgeous horse with the worst hair cut.  I thought he was the best miler we had, and thought he could easily win the BC Mile.  I think they simply put him in the wrong races.  Not all horses are meant for the classic distances.  Look how well Big Drama has done since they established his best distance.  As far as the 2009 BCC, I believe the gate crew was forewarned that QR did not like anyone behind him.  And apparently he didn't.  While a blindfold might be helpful in some instances, in this case, it seemed to be the final indignity.  Perhaps QR was simply too intelligent to be fooled.  I was really sorry to see him finish so poorly in the BCC, but he has a sprinter's speed and 10f is a bit too long to sustain that type of charge.

Great article, Steve!  It finally gives some credit to the horse that QR really is.  He deserves it much more than the insults he's had to endure since the BCC.

04 Jan 2011 10:14 AM
RaceFan

Interesting parallel you draw with Life at Ten's performance that day...same trainer...hmmm...

04 Jan 2011 10:23 AM
peggy7

Fascinating rendition of a very interesting racing journey. I worked for Jerkins and a better horseman than that family doesn't exist on the track. The horse wasn't ok to run in the derby so he didn't. Most trainers will run in those kind of races no matter, and do "whatever" to get in the starting gate. Jerkens run their horses when they are ready.

As for QR's poor performances, maybe he had something bothering him as many horses do, which wasn't easily made apparent to the vets or trainer. Also, maybe taking a look at the competition was a bit intimidating to him. He's a smart horse and why kill yourself in any race when everything doesn't suit?

04 Jan 2011 10:23 AM
Pedigree Ann

Quality Road was a great racer only at Gulfstream Park, and only very good elsewhere. (I should note that his track records were for a new surface, the 9f configuration being installed only a few years ago. General Duke's 1:46 4/5 is still the record for the 8f Gulfstream.)

Quality Road rarely encountered another dedicated frontrunner; he usually got his own way on the lead. But in the BC Classic he finally had competition on the front end and he didn't have the conditioning to go on with it. He was not a natural 10f horse; he needed more help from his trainer, which he didn't get.

04 Jan 2011 10:30 AM
BTJake

While I value differing opinions, I've never quite understood those that felt QR was overrated.  Here's a horse who broke track records from 6.5 furlong and a mile and an 8th (twice) and somehow that doesn't translate into quality for some.  This was a very gifted race horse who displayed effortless speed on many occasions.  Who wouldn't want a great looking athletic horse with speed that can be carried a route of ground?

I'll have a barn full please! :)

04 Jan 2011 10:43 AM
Lauracrown

Steve,

Thank you for this insightful and in-depth look into Quality Road's life and personality. Your words allowed me to "see" him as he was as a yearling and as he is around his people who care for him. You have restored his reputation as a kind,willing, wonderful racehorse when other writers are still focusing on his gate meltdown and losses. I love Quality Road! My heart went out to him as I watched his antics before the 2009 Classic. I fully agree with what Mr.Duncan thinks caused Quality Road to act up that day. In any case, I saw a horse trying desperately to signal to impatient gate crewmen that something wasn't being done the way Quality Road felt comfortable with during the loading process and,thus, a battle of wills ensued as communication between horse and handlers broke down.

As far as Quality Road's races go, I thought he was brilliant, but it was clear to me he was "a horse for the course". He clearly loved running at Gulfstream Park where he excelled,for example. I am not surprised he didn't do as well at a few other tracks, but I don't question his trainers,owner, or pedigree. When you have a horse with Quality Road's brilliance, you have to give him the opportunity to try longer distances before going back to shorter races. It was too bad his quarter cracks hindered his career.

Finally, I send my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Evans on his passing. Horse racing has lost a fine man. I will picture him smiling down from Heaven as he watches Quality Road's foals frolicking in the sun.

04 Jan 2011 10:47 AM
Barbara W

Since several have mentioned Life at Ten along with QR, I have a question:

The last I read, they said it would take "weeks" for the investigation to be ended. Why? Does anyone know the outcome of what they decided? Maybe I just missed it.

04 Jan 2011 10:48 AM
bellesforever

Such a nice look at the horse beyond his racing..nicely done.He was a lot of fun to watch and I hope he is a successful sire..Maybe the rail did him in on B.C. day or maybe he just didn't want to go that far..whatever it was I am not holding it against him as we are all entitled to a bad day.

04 Jan 2011 11:02 AM
newsline2

Do horses with hoof issues tend to be overall more sensitive? Stress showing up in their hooves?

Could the issue be more about how they handle pressure and prolonged stress that shows up in their feet, rather than something inherently incorrect about their feet? Chronic stress causing reduced bloodflow to extremities? And the transmitted trait is that sensitivity to their environment?

04 Jan 2011 11:06 AM
Donna Melendz from Grayslake, IL

Great article Steve,  I will miss QR on the track for sure.  Hope you had a nice and relaxing vacation.  Looking forward to your Derby Dozen picks!  

04 Jan 2011 11:16 AM
Tiznowbaby

I don't quite get the angst about QR finishing last. There were no dogs entered in the BC Classic. They all were quality horses (no pun intended). I mean, someone has to finish last. And yeah, he maybe wasn't feeling his best that day. Handsome, brilliant horse.

04 Jan 2011 11:28 AM
Stephanie Q

I Love Quality Road-he should have never gone to Pletcher!!!

04 Jan 2011 11:33 AM
Pam S.

I used to think of Quality Road as a brilliant-but-fragile type with distance limitations.  Then I saw him in person at the 2009 BC and "fell" for him because he was so handsome.  I was dismayed when he had to be scratched and thought it was a great accomplishment when the special tutoring succeeded in making him a good gate horse.

At BC 2010, I don't think anyone would have picked QR to finish last.  I take it no physical reason was ever found as to why he threw in the towel.  Like others, I wish QR had run a few more times, but the way he ran in the Classic, it looked as if that was one race too many.

I really enjoyed reading the story of Quality Road's career.  He did fulfill a lot of his early promise, but it seems his biggest problem was timing.  He mostly turned in his best performances early in the racing year, then on the most important days, he failed or wasn't there, for various reasons.

Upon the recent death of Mr. Evans, I felt sorry that QR's final race was such a disappointment (and such a mystery).  I hadn't even thought about Mr. Evans not seeing his big horse's foals.  But now that you mention it, Steve, I have a feeling Mr. Road is going to be a successful sire.

04 Jan 2011 11:36 AM
MyBigRed

Thank you for the story on Quality Road. I was a BIG fan of Quality Road from the moment I saw his first race and I look forward to visiting him at Lane's End.

04 Jan 2011 11:39 AM
Love 'em all

First, my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. E. P. Evans.  

Welcome back, Mr. Haskin.  Thank you for the beautifully written tribute to the well deserved colt/stallion, Quality Road.  I liked him before the BCC Nov. 7, 2009, but I've loved him ever since.

Agree with Barbara W's comment 1/3/11 at 3:45pm.  

QR's so-called "gate incident" won him more fans that day than anyone could count. That horse was no fool.  He knew he was too big for that little gate (he and Zenyatta were the Lincoln Town Cars compared to the smaller Ford Taurus horses that day)... and he had had enough of that noisy crowd.  But, that gosh awful noisy helicopter did him in!  Okay, we all agree the whip and blindfold actually caused him to loose it completely!  That horse had gumption galore, and probably had more sense than any of them that day!  Apparently, they finally took him seriously when he refused to board the plane the next day!  [laughing]

I love Quality Road even more now that I've read this tribute relating more to his personal side.  Thank you again.  Best wishes always to Quality Road.  He's been missed by his many fans.

04 Jan 2011 11:51 AM
Ann

Kurt that is what happens when are are more of a businessman than horseman and money.

QR should have been kept at a mile and NO this horse was not overrated.

04 Jan 2011 11:56 AM
Rachel O

I think QR's problems in the BCCs stemmed from worries about whether or not he'd get to be Zenyatta's first date.

04 Jan 2011 12:06 PM
Racehorselover

Quality Road was a wonderful horse. If Zenyatta doesn't get HOY I would much rather see QR get it as opposed to Blame despite his finish in the BCC. Pletcher has never been my favorite trainer. I was not happy when QR was given to him. But just being a spectator we have no say. I mean Curlin finished fourth in his BCC and got HOY. If QR was underated then Blame is overrated.

Hope your New Year is a grand one Steve. Be sure when you visit Lane's End you give hugz to The Queen and QR for us. Zenyatta for HOY.

04 Jan 2011 12:10 PM
James

I agree with what Matthew W's comment about the 2009 JC Gold Cup. The fact that Summer Bird ran by him so easily in midstretch -- Quality Road had everything his own way on the front end that afternoon -- showed that 10 furlongs wasn't his optimal distance. Even Haynesfield got 1 1/4 without 2 turns at Belmont.

There was no chance that Pletcher was going to run Quality Road at 1 1/4m this year before the BC because the conditioner knew it didn't suit him. The Classic was just a pipe dream.

It's a shame Quality Road didn't run in the Dirt Mile because he was such a terrific miler, but his connections refused to admit it.

04 Jan 2011 12:16 PM
Fran Loszynski

When any racehorse is remembered and loved from a foal to his racing career, he's a winner. I'm sure Ned Evans will be at the rail in spirit watching his young foals from Quality Road. When they turn their young heads at the finish line it will be because they see Mr. Evans cheering.

04 Jan 2011 1:40 PM
Bill Daly

I agree with Pedigree Ann about QR's love of Gulfstream. Some horses really move up on that track and he was one of them. In fairness he did run quite well at Saratoga and Belmont - just not as spectacularly or as easily.  He was quite gifted and the debacle of the BCs - both of 'em - shouldn't be a measuring stick of his ability.  2009 BC is a total throwout while the last one is a mystery.  We know he was better than that.  He kind of reminds me of a horse Mr. Jerkens had a while back - Sensational Prince - a very fast horse who could make a lot of horses look bad on any given day, but didn't quite class up to the best of his generation.  

04 Jan 2011 4:18 PM
Bill Daly

Make that Sensitive Prince, rather than Sensational Prince.  My bad.

04 Jan 2011 4:22 PM
Matthew W

I liken him to Congaree--brilliant miler's speed/tenth furlong a reach...at times unbelievable....

04 Jan 2011 4:51 PM
Virgil Fox

Thank You Steve,

I always looked forward to and really enjoyed watching Quality Road run.

He was truly an exceptional athlete.

I must admit that I’ve still got a bad taste in my mouth regarding the Whitney and the ride of John Velazquez.  I believe Quality Road should have won that race.

Perhaps I don’t have the story straight or have all of the information in the case of the Whitney.  

If I am in error, or if anyone has a different take on Quality Road’s / Johnny V’s performance and decision making in that particular race, I would appreciate comments.

- Peace

04 Jan 2011 6:36 PM
Lucy

  I liked Quality Road. As some others noted, it was a shame he was taken from Jerkins, who would have given him the "hands on," individualized attention a quirky, young thoroughbred needs.  That is, in part, I think, what made Zenyatta what she was, a trainer who knew her and understood her as an individual.

  It seems to me that many who are involved in or follow racing forget just how young a three-year-old horse really is. In sports such as dressage, three-day-eventing and jumping, most top horses are near ten and often continue competing well into their teens.  Endurace horses must be five before they are allowed to participate at full distances. This is because horses do not reach full physical maturity until that age and may take even longer to become "settled."  Every time I watch the post parade for the Kentucky Derby I hold my breath and consider it a miracle that all those hot-blooded three year olds make it safely to the gate.  

  Quality Road was a scared, young thoroughbred at last years' Breeders Cup and this year?  Who knows?  I wondered if maybe he did not think it was right to have to race at dinner time.

  I do wish these horses raced a little longer, so we could see them as grown-ups and not scared babies.  

04 Jan 2011 6:51 PM
Will W

Now after all that gate schooling and a few good races he gets caught in the Whitney after easy fractions, bombs in the BC Classic, and is instantly retired though only a 4 year old. No need for a eulogy here.

04 Jan 2011 7:06 PM
ROBINM

QR was my favorite for the 2009 Derby.  I didn't even bother to find a new "fave" when quarter cracks kept him out of the Triple Crown races.  I haven't heard anyone mention the Santa Anita surface when talking about the debacle at the 2009 BCC but he didn't train well on the synthetic surface leading up to the race.  I'm convinced he is an intelligent horse; maybe he was reluctant to load because he really didn't want to race on that track.  Under the pressure of the whip and the blindfold he was totally undone.

Frankly, the comments about QR retireing so soon kind of confuses me.  He had a full 2010 campaign (as a 4 yr old) unlike many of his contemporaries who didn't race past 3.

Personally, I think he'll be a very productive sire if bred to the right mares.  I like seeing speed (particularly a high "cruising" speed) mated to stamina.  I think he would be an excellent mate for Zenyatta, though it's more likley she will go to AP Indy.

04 Jan 2011 8:58 PM
TerriZ

I read that Johnny V said that Quality Road kept going to the the side and that he was not himself on the day of the Whitney.

One wonders what was up with this; was the horse not feeling right or was it a medication issue.

This was a brillant, focused horse.

By the way, a mating with Zenyatta would be an ideal match of stamina and speed. Zenyatta has the stamina of Roberto's family. And of course, Quality Road was a speedster. Why not breed for speed and stamina; I am sure Mr. Evans would wholeheartedly approve.

Thanks again for the wonderful article. I am sure that his owner, Mr. Evan's spirit will always be with QR and his offspring.

04 Jan 2011 9:14 PM
an ole rail bird

well written piece, thanks. would just like to add. i have watched a lot of races in my 60 plus years swaps was the ist good horse i remember. quality road will be one that will stick in my mind as one of the best. he always reminded me of damascus. but i think that the next time that the mississippi river gets out of its banks. they should put todd pletcher in charge of it. and then make john velascis his right hand man. between those 2, they may not stop it completly, but they will change something on it that at least make it change directions. lets go horse racing

04 Jan 2011 11:21 PM
Maggie

The only real "clunker" QR had was the 2010 Classic...He didn't win everything, but was right there all the time and did win many fantastic ones.  I love that kind of a career- it makes it so interesting.  It reminds me of many of the old time horses and their harder careers.  Certainly Seabiscuit didn't win all of his, but the ones he did were super.  Sometimes it's just fun as a fan to have to watch and wait for that brilliance to come through!

04 Jan 2011 11:33 PM
Maggie

Oh, I forgot to mention:  I always thought that 1 1/4 miles was going to be too far for Quality Road...The dirt mile would have been the best choice.  

04 Jan 2011 11:35 PM
Draynay

May he forever more catch a dry track.  Loved watching him.  Can't wait to see him this summer.

05 Jan 2011 1:42 AM
Lisa g

Quality Road and Lookin At Lucky, were the male stars.

05 Jan 2011 7:56 AM
Deby

I just have a comment regarding Pletcher and Life at Ten regarding the so-called "investigation that is taking forever".  The Kentucky Racing Commission has said repeatedly that none of the on track vets or personnel were notified that there was an issue with her.  Her jock told Jerry Bailey and company that something was not right with her.  He had a lead pony with him the whole time she was on the track!  Why didn't that outrider notify track the vets?  She heard everything that was being said about the horse.  I hope Quality Road is a successful stallion and he stays in the U.S.  Happy New Year everyone!

05 Jan 2011 9:09 AM
Licci

great piece about this great horse... some might say he never got to win the "Big Ones" but, come on... this guy could run! he delivered! Too bad he's gone... i'll remember him!

05 Jan 2011 9:24 AM
Zemonized

Thank you for the informative article on one of my favorite horses of recent years.  I was surprised & happy to know that he was such a sweetheart off the track.  I thought from the comments made that he was a "nut-job, head-case" all the time.  I'm thinking Coronado's Quest & to go in the way back vault - Prego. I think the starter who saved his life @ BC '09 should have received some kind of "Courage Under Fire" award & as for BC '10, considering the Class this horse has and his PP, I was relieved that he had not suffered some type of injury (as far as we know) since he stopped-up quicker than a clogged drain.  May he enjoy a long, pampered & healthy life at Lane's End.  As for Todd Pletcher, if he never got a QUALITY horse again that would be  O.K. with me.  Wish YOU could train as well as you write!!

05 Jan 2011 12:19 PM
NotRealQuiet

Thanks for the article, very informative, Steve. What a beautiful animal. His head is perfect and his color exceptional, his expressions are of greatness, and what an athlete . . . I will miss him.

05 Jan 2011 12:21 PM
Deb

A kind horse that just became very scared for some reason of the gate. Good training put it right.

I like him alot.

A beautiful horse that did his job to the best of his ability.

05 Jan 2011 1:52 PM
Carole

I have loved Quality Road since early in his racing career -- a beautiful, talented horse. Thank you for telling so much more about his off-track personality, training, intelligence. I look forward to visiting him during my next visit to KY.

05 Jan 2011 6:02 PM
Richard

Interesting comments about Pletcher -- he did have two unusual occurrences with Quality Road and Life at Ten at this past year's Breeders' Cup.

05 Jan 2011 6:06 PM
KARINNYC

I was not a big Quality Road fan at first.  When he broke through the gate at the breeders cup I was so worried for him.  Then when I heard he wouldn't get on the plane I fell in love with the big boy.  I kept up on his gate progress and was happy to see him doing well.  When I saws the replay of the Donn My mouth dropped wide open and I got to see him in the Met Mile he was just unbelievable.

 I just have to say I also love Musket Man he's "the litle engine that could.  I wanted him to win just once.

I wish Quality Road was the horse that beat Zenyatta....the sting would not have been as bad.  Him being last doesn't make me love him any less.

Can't wait to see his little ones.  I'll be on look out.

05 Jan 2011 7:51 PM
sherpa

Thank you for this, Steve. I wasn't a big QR fan before, but your telling of his story makes me wish I had appreciated him more.  

You truly are the "Speaker for the Horse."

05 Jan 2011 8:03 PM
GunBow

I can't claim to have been a huge Quality Road fan, and on a number of occassions on this and other Bloodhorse blogs, I argued against him be called a superstar or the "Next..."(fill in Spectacular Bid, Holy Bull, Easy Goer, etc).

However, there was no denying that he was physically gifted, and could, on his best day, be awe inspiring.  And he always had a class about him.  It is unfortunate that he wasn't able to run in either the Kentucky Derby or 09' Breeder's Cup Classic and that he threw in by far his worst performance in the 10' Classic.  

I wish I could say that I had seen Quality Road run in person, but the one day he and I were at the same racetrack on the same afternoon(09' Breeders Cup), he was scratched at the post.  At least I was able to see him in person because he did make a wonderful physical impression; what a powerfully built horse!  He was the only horse in that 09' Classic field that physically could look Zenyatta in the eye.

As with others, Quality Road will remain somewhat of an enigma for me.  He was talented, fast, classy(won 4 gr.1 races), but he didn't appear to be a true classic horse and he unraveled on the biggest stages.  The horse I liken him to is In Excess.  Physically, Quality Road shared many similarities with In Excess, and they also shared the same frontrunning style.  Both turned in some awesome performances and won 4 gr.1 races, but both had distance limitations and experienced debacles in the Breeder's Cup.

In Excess was a Euro transplant who was based in Bruce Jackson's barn in California.  In the fall of 1990, In Excess won the Volante Stakes on turf(now Oak Tree Derby), before being switched to the dirt for the 91' San Fernando, which he won in a romp with a 116 Beyer.  Next out, in the 10 furlong Strub, In Excess' distance limitations first reared its head when he faded to be 3rd as the heavy favorite.  Then, in the Big Cap, he was run into the ground by red-hot Farma Way.

At this point, Jackson decided that In Excess might like Belmont more than the Cali tracks, as well as the fact that at Belmont 9 and 10 furlong races are run around just 1 turn.  Jackson mapped out a smart NY campaign for In Excess, one that avoided the big handicap stars like Farma Way, Festin, Jolies Halo, Unbridled, Summer Squall, Marguetry, and Black Tie Affair who were running in races belonging to the new American Championship Racing Series.  

In Excess went on to win the Met Mile(with 116/117 Beyer), the 10 furlong Suburban(then a gr.1, and in track record time for a 120 Beyer), and then the Whitney.  Finally, in the 9 furlong Woodward at Belmont, which served as the final race in the ACRS, Jackson put In Excess in against the big handicap stars; In Excess responded with an authoratative victory(116 Beyer) to become the both the leading older horse and the leading contender for Horse of the Year.

Unfortunately for In Excess and his connections, the Breeders Cup was a huge debacle.  Much like Quality Road, this debacle was centered around the decision of which race to enter.  While Pletcher, incorrectly it appears, remained convinced that Quality Road could not only get 10 furlongs, but that he could do it at Churchill with its long stretch against a field full of speed, Bruce Jackson concluded that In Excess wanted no part of 10 furlongs at Churchill(where the 91' BC was held).  

Consequently, Jackson entered In Excess not in the Classic but in the Mile(turf).  In Excess could only muster 9th in the Mile, and so lost both the HoY and the older male Eclipse.  In retrospect, Jackson should have have tried the Classic, but it goes without saying that had the dirt Mile been an option, it would have been the perfect fit for In Excess.  And it is fairly clear now that the Dirt Mile would have been the better spot for Quality Road this year and last.

If Quality Road turns out to be as good a sire as In Excess, then he will have a sizable impact on future generations.  Although based in Cali where he doesn't see the top broodmares, In Excess has sired some wonderful horses, including Indian Charlie, the sire of Uncle Mo.  

06 Jan 2011 3:37 AM
Bellwether

???...PAULICK REPORT ROCKS!!!...LAT B$..."IT" AIN'T GOE N AWAY...ty...

06 Jan 2011 5:53 AM
sherpa

As always, GunBow, your comment was even-handed and very informative.  I glean perspective every time you or Footlick sit down at your keyboards. Thanks.

06 Jan 2011 11:58 AM
Zenyattasbiggestfan

Well now he can go out and sire winnwrs. I will miss him,Blame ,and mostly Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.

12 Jan 2011 10:31 PM
DANYLSON

QUALITY ROAD HAD AN ABCESS DURING "DISPLAY" AT HIS OPENING WEEK AT STUD. ACCORDING TO THOSE AROUND THAT DAY AND MANY WHO TOOK A LOOK, THE ABCESS OCCURED DURING THE CLASSIC, WHICH WOULD JUSTIFY HIS POOR SHOWING.

17 Jan 2011 10:03 AM
Sue M

@August Song - I agree. I just don't like what I see from some of TP's horses. It was a suspicion at first, but I see I'm not the only one.

17 Jan 2011 3:34 PM
QRIsTheBest

I did visit with QR at Lanes End this pst November and he truly is the friendliest horse I have very been around. A gentle giant to say the least. He let me pet and kiss him. Lol

Those that saw him after his last race did mention that his foot was heavily bandaged during his inspection and he did indeed suffer from an abscess. When I aske a staff member at Lanes End about this (cause it bothers me that he has never had a bad race except his last) theycould not confirm that officially but did mention that something was bothering him. Its in my opinion that QR was not 100% at the BCC and if his previous races are any indication that statement is accurate. I also believe that if he were 100% healthy Blame and Zenyatta would have been a footnote that day. The cards QR were dealt at both BCC 10 & 09is very sad, but I know in my heart that he could have won them both and gone down as one of the greats. Maybe his foals will redeem his legacy.

13 Dec 2011 11:38 PM

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