Quality Road returned to the winner’s circle Saturday
afternoon at Saratoga Race Course with an emphatic 4 ¾-length victory over
Mythical Power in the 57th
running of the $750,000 Woodward, his
third Grade 1 win of the year.
Rebounding from his narrow loss to Blame at Saratoga four
weeks ago, the 4-year-old Elusive Quality colt broke sharply and was quickly
maneuvered to the outside of longshot Arcodoro, who set opening fractions of
24.06 and 47.76. With three furlongs to go, jockey John Velazquez sent Quality Road up
into the lead, and he was never threatened as he rolled through the stretch
under mild encouragement to hit the wire in 1:50.00 for the 1 1/8 miles.
“He was much, much better than last time,” said Velazquez of
Quality Road, who this year won the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope, the Grade 1 Donn
Handicap and the Grade 1 Met Mile before being stunned by Blame at the wire in
the Grade 1 Whitney. “In the Whitney, I was struggling to get him going. Today,
he was much more willing, and much more on the bridle.”
The Woodward victory was the fourth of the day for
Velazquez, who heads into the final two days of the meet with a 55-52 advantage
over Javier Castellano in the jockey standings. Earlier in the card, Velazquez
and Pletcher teamed up to win race 2, a maiden special weight, with Crea's Law
($4.90). In race 5, also a maiden event, Velazquez guided Souper
Spectacular ($16), half-brother to the undefeated Zenyatta, to victory for
trainer Seth Benzel. The rider also picked up an overnight stakes win in race 7,
the Addison Mallery, aboard C.S. Silk ($10.60) for trainer Dale Romans.
In the Woodward, Mythical Power, trained by Hall of Famer
Bob Baffert, held on to finish a half-length in front of Tranquil Manner, who
in turn was followed by Convocation, Indian Dance, Arcodoro, and Mine That
“This is the race we expected,” said Todd Pletcher, who
trains Quality Road
for Edward P. Evans. “He’s proven before he’s a top-class horse and he proved
it again today … these situations, anything less than a win is unacceptable.
Anytime you’re in that situation, you’re going to be relieved.
“I thought he ran a good race,” added the trainer. “I
certainly think we can make a strong argument [for having the best horse in the
country]. He’s accomplished a lot this year with the Donn, the Met Mile, and
this race. He’s certainly put himself in a position, if he wins the next one.
Right now, the plan all year has been to run in these races. He got beat a
short head in the last one, but I think he redeemed himself today on a track
that did not appear to be playing very fast.”
Sent off as the 3-10 favorite in the field of seven, Quality Road
returned $2.60 for a $2 win bet to his backers in the crowd of 21,242. The
winner’s purse of $450,000 extended his earnings to $2,232,830 and his record
to 8-3-1 from 12 starts. He will likely next head to the Breeders’ Cup Classic
at Churchill Downs on November 6.
“We’ll see how he comes out of today’s race,” said Pletcher.
“The plan all along has been to go from here to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
We’ll have his next-to-last work at Belmont
Park, and his final work
at Churchill, so we’ll probably go to Churchill Downs 12 or 13 days out.”
Pletcher said he was looking forward to the challenge of the
Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race from which Quality Road was scratched at the gate
“We have tremendous respect for Zenyatta, but we don’t
expect to show up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and have it be an easy field,”
he said. ”That’s what championship events are about.”