Quality Road Dazzles in the Donn

From the blog Horsin' Around

Not many horses are quick enough to set a track record, and when they do it isn't often they duplicate that performance. It is even rarer to see a horse set a eclipse his own record while receiving no pressure or encouragement whatsoever. Last year I saw only one horse do just that, and her name was Rachel Alexandra, the reigning Horse of the Year. Yesterday, I saw it again, could it be possible the Queen of Thoroughbred racing has some competition in the older male division? I think so, and his name is Quality Road.

The monstrous colt stands over 17 hands high and has the look of a heavy-weight boxer. Despite his size, the colt is a sight to see. He is well proportioned, with a handsome head sits well on his muscular neck, that molds perfectly into a pair of massive shoulders. To match his front end, the colt is armed with a set of large, powerful hind quarters that form his enormous engine that has motored him to victory twice this year and a total of six times in his nine career starts. The giant bay has not one white spot on his body, which may lead many to think he is rather plain looking, but that is far from the case. When the sun shines upon him it lights up his magnificent coat, giving it an orangey gold hue.


Quality Road had always been on the radar as, potentially a very good horse. However, after a pair of eye popping wins in the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, a race he set a track record in, it became clear that the talented son of Elusive Quality could become much more than good, he had the potential to be great. After his impressive record setting win in the Florida Derby, the talented bay, vaulted to the top of everyone's Kentucky Derby lists.

The fame he received, though was short lived, as a pair of quarter cracks plagued him, knocking him out of any possible start in the Kentucky Derby, and out of the public eye. Nearly five months later, however, the colt returned to racing, flashing that very brilliance that earned him early Kentucky Derby favoritism. At the historic track of Saratoga, the big colt dished out a spine chilling, track record setting performance in the 6.5 furlong Amsterdam Stakes.

That race would be the last time any good befell the talented colt that year. In the Travers, he was pitted against the eventual three year old champion colt, over his favorite surface at his preferred distance. Quality Road would go on to finish a well beaten and tired third. Next came the Jockey Club Gold Cup, where he would again run into Summer Bird on a wet track. Quality Road was a much improved horse, but the slop proved to much of an advantage for Summer Bird as he went on to beat Quality Road by a hard fought length. The worst of all the problems came to a climax on Breeders Cup Day, where Quality Road, frightened by all the noise of the crowd and an imposing looking helicopter hovering high above the gate, refused to load, eventually having a full blown fit in the starting gate. After it all was over Quality Road was a late scratch in the race that could've been his crowning moment.

Two months after the incident at Santa Anita, Quality returned to the sight of his greatest win, Gulfstream Park, to run in the Hals Hop, going the distance of one mile. The colt easily strutted his way to victory, never really being asked to run. To a person viewing the race, it looked as though the colt was literally "sleep-running." To some, however the easy performance looked too workman like, and they questioned whether Quality Road was the same horse he was when winning the Amsterdam and Florida Derby. In the Grade one Donn Handicap, Quality Road proved that he wasn't the same horse he was last year, he was even better.

Quality Road would go on to romp to victory by a widening 12 3/4 length margin, that broke the previous margin record of nine lengths. With a final time of 1.47.49, Quality Road eclipsed his own stakes record, that he set in last year's Florida Derby, by .23 seconds. Three times this talented colt has show the potential to be one of the greatest the sport has ever seen. Many believe he may be the most talented horse since the great Spectacular Bid. However, Quality Road must first fulfill the lofty expectations that are set for him to validate that status, and in order to do that he must first of all stay sound throughout the season. If he is able to do that then he must show that he can consistently duplicate his Donn performance at different tracks and over the Classic distance. If he can do that he will have stamped himself a truly great horse. And for the record, I fully expect him to do just that.

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