Early Life (2006-2007)
Quality Road ticks every box of the requirements of a good Thoroughbred. Successful on the racetrack? Check. Good career at stud? Check. Good looks? Double check for that impressive mane and forelock.
Before he was hailed as one of Lane’s End Farm’s best stallions, Quality Road was nursing from his dam Kobla on a Virginia farm. The colt by Elusive Quality quickly grew into a handsome yearling. Breeder Edward P. Evans attempted to sell his colt at the 2007 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, but he RNAd. This was probably a good thing for Evans - Quality Road would go on to earn much more than his $110k reserve.
[Video: Quality Road at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale]
Two-Year Old Season (2008)
Quality Road made his two-year old debut on Nov. 29, 2008 at Aqueduct. The training James Jerkens put him through paid off; Quality Road won on his first asking. It would be the only start of his two-year old season.
Three-Year Old Season (2009)
Quality Road matured into a 16.3hh gorgeous animal. He made his season debut in Florida, finishing second in an allowance at Gulfstream Park after stepping slow at the start.
In his next start, Quality Road would be asked to show what he was made of. He would be stepping up into Grade 1 company for the Fountain of Youth Stakes. It is a huge race for horses on a journey to the Kentucky Derby. The colt proved the huge jump in class to be no problem; he ran away from the field to win by about four lengths.
Jockey John Velasquez was very happy with the colt after the race. He told BloodHorse, "He was ready to run and run today. The closer we got to the finish the stronger I felt we were getting”.
Velasquez wasn’t the only one high on Quality Road after his win. The colt was the bettor’s (narrow) second favorite for the Gr.1 Florida Derby exactly one month later. He again proved himself a winner by edging away from the field, even after coming out on the far turn and having to repel the favorite Dunkirk. The win set a new track record of 1:47.72 for 1 ⅛ miles.
It looked like Quality Road would be one of the top choices for the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, fate would not allow Quality Road to compete in the race. He developed a quarter crack after a gallop, causing him to miss his last scheduled breeze.
[Video: Quality Road wins the Gr.1 Florida Derby]
Quality Road finally returned to the work tab on June 8th while still under the care of trainer Jimmy Jerkens. The following week, the colt was transferred to the barn of Todd Pletcher. On August 3, 2009, Quality Road made his highly anticipated return to the races in the Gr.2 Amsterdam Stakes in track record breaking fashion. He finished Saratoga’s six-furlong race in 1:13.45, even after stumbling at the start.
Todd Pletcher spoke to BloodHorse after the win, telling them, "Any time you have a horse with this type of potential, you want him to run well. You want him to run as good as he did for Jimmy. He looked like he stumbled a little at the start…but he ran as well as we wanted him to today."
Less than a month later, Quality Road went back into Gr.1 company for the Travers Stakes. Unfortunately, the colt didn’t perform as well as everyone had hoped. He finished third while the Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird stole the show.
Quality Road ran next in the Gr.1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Again, he faced Summer Bird on a sloppy New York racetrack. At the top of the stretch, Quality Road has his neck in front but Summer Bird was there to challenge him. The two bounded down the stretch together. Quality Road ran his eyeballs out (figuratively, of course), but was unable to defeat Summer Bird.
The two consecutive losses didn’t dampen the respect Quality Road’s connections had for him. He had lost, but not without putting up some sort of fight. Because of this, they entered him into the Gr.1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Quality Road shipped all the way from New York to sunny Santa Anita in California. He made it all the way to the gates when it all went terribly wrong. Quality Road refused to enter the starting gates. He bucked, he hopped, he reared, and he pulled. The starting crew blindfolded the horse in an attempt to calm his nerves and lead him peacefully into the starting gate. Unfortunately, the blindfold did the complete opposite; Quality Road freaked out as soon as he realized he was in the gates. He kicked and bucked until he had a multitude of injuries, forcing a late scratch from the race.
Chris Baker, farm manager for Edward P. Evans said of the incident, “He’s got stitches, he nearly knocked a tooth out, he’s got a laceration and a big bruise over one eye, and a pretty significant hematoma on his left leg. They appear to be passing things and soft tissue type of injuries, but he still has to recover from them and also the mental wounds.”
Quality Road wouldn’t even load onto a plane, so he had to be vanned all the way home. His connections were worried that he would be traumatized and would never be able to race again. They also worried that the incident would make people look down upon the horse. Quality Road was always an angel in the morning. He wasn’t crazy or rogue, he was kind and intelligent.
Four-Year Old Season (2010)
Thankfully, Quality Road was able to return to the racetrack as a four-year old. He made his seasonal debut in the Gr.1 Hal’s Hope Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January. He won the race by 2 ¾ lengths, getting the win he needed to get him back on the right track.
The colt was then entered into the Gr.1 Donn Handicap where he absolutely flew home to a 12 ¾ length victory, breaking his own track record for 1 ⅛ miles with a time of 1:47.49.
Todd Pletcher was very happy with his horse after the race, but knew that it was something his horse was capable of. “He’s got a very high cruising speed and can go :46 and 1:09 and still keep going. Not many horses can do that and he was spotting weight to all those horses, six pounds or more.”
Unsurprisingly, Quality Road dazzled in the Gr.1 Met Mile nearly four months later, repelling Musket Man’s strong stretch drive to win by 1 ½ lengths. He then entered the Gr.1 Whitney Handicap where he just couldn’t hold off the extremely fast closing Blame, losing by a head.
Again, the loss didn’t hurt Quality Road’s reputation. He was still the heavy favorite for the Gr.1 Woodward Stakes where he practically cantered down the stretch to victory. Quality Road entered the starting gates for the Gr.1 Breeders’ Cup Classic looking for revenge. Unfortunately, revenge would not be achieved by Quality Road that day. He was near the front of the field on the backstretch, but dead last when he crossed the wire. Hardly anyone noticed, though, as all eyes were on Blame defeating Zenyatta by a nose.
[Video: Quality Road wins the Gr.1 Woodward Stakes with ease]
Retirement and Stud
It was determined than an abscess had caused Quality Road’s poor performance in the Classic and he was retired to stud at Lane’s End Farm. He stood for just $35k during his first season in 2011, a huge bargain compared to what he stands for now.
His first crop produced Hootenanny, who got his sire Breeders’ Cup revenge when he won the Juvenile Turf in 2014. Also in his first crop were Blofeld and Overprepared. He was named the leading first crop sire by earnings that year.
His third crop produced Abel Tasman, winner of the Kentucky Oaks in 2017. Caledonia Road won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies that year too. Quality Road’s list of notable progeny include names like Roadster, City Of Light, Klimt, and Paved. He has ten Gr.1 winners from six crops, has sired two seven digit yearlings, and had a 2018 yearling average of over $300k. He is truly an imposing force as a sire, making his stud fee of $150,000 seem like a good price to pay.
Quality Road is the #1 General Sire of 2019 and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down one bit. Good things just don’t stop coming Quality Road’s way. The stallion spends the majority of his day grazing and zooming across his paddock while his yearlings sell for high prices and his crops of racing age tear up race tracks across the country.
What a good life for both the horse and his connections.
Author - Kaeli Bartholomew: I run Champions of the Track as a way to spread the love of horse racing through writing, photography, and videography. The best way to increase the popularity and respect for this sport is by sharing stories and memories! Thank you for joining me on my mission to improve and grow the sport of horse racing.
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Sources: BloodHorse (1) (links in articles)