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Quality Road Strong Choice in Donn

HALLENDALE, FL.- FEBRUARY 28, 2009: John R. Velazquez rides Quality Road (VA) during the 63rd running of the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (Grade II) at Gulfstream Park in Hallendale Beach, FL.

Edward P. Evans’ 4-year-old homebred colt Quality Road won the Florida Derby (G1) last season at Gulfstream Park to be widely-regarded as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby (G1), and returns this year as the strong favorite to capture the most prestigious race for older horses on the South Florida racing calendar in Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1).

Regular rider John R. Velazquez will be back aboard the Virginia-bred son of Elusive Quality facing seven rivals in the 52nd edition of the 1 1/8 miles Donn for trainer Todd Pletcher in his second start of the year after an impressive 2 ¾ lengths victory in the Hal’s Hope (G3) going a mile here on Jan. 3.

Quality Road won the Fountain of Youth prior to the Florida Derby for trainer Jimmy Jerkens before his Triple Crown campaign aspirations were precluded by nagging problems with his feet. Transferred to Pletcher for the second half of the season, Quality Road set a track record winning the Amsterdam Stakes (G3) at Saratoga in late August in his first start since the Florida Derby on Mar. 28.

Again, the imposing colt faced adversity finishing third in the Travers Stakes (G1) at the Spa and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park, both run over ‘sloppy’ tracks that likely didn’t play to his best. And to round-out the year, the unfortunate incident while attempting to load for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 7 which caused his being scratched.

Four of Quality Road’s rivals in a field of 10 come out of the ‘off the turf’ Fort Lauderdale Stakes going a one-turn mile over a ‘sloppy’ track on Jan. 10. Alex and JoAnn Lieblong and partners’ Duke of Mischief won by a neck over Hardacre Farm’s Kiss the Kid who was second while Quantum Racing Team #1’s Mambo Meister finished third with Carol Nyren’s Dry Martini fourth, the latter beaten only two lengths for it all.

Jockey Eibar Coa will be back aboard 4-year-old Duke of Mischief for trainer David Fawkes after his very good effort in the Fort Lauderdale, his first start since finishing seventh as the favorite in the Ohio Derby (G2) at Thistledown on Oct. 11. The chestnut son of Graeme Hall posted his most important victory winning the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows in late June by five lengths.

Kiss the Kid is a highly versatile 7-year-old Lemon Drop Kid horse trained by Amy Tarrant for owner Hardacre Farm. ‘The Kid’ won the Appleton Stakes (G3) on turf here last year, finished a game second by a neck in the Meadowlands Cup (G2) in mid-October. His career bankroll of $760,000 is almost equally divided between turf and main track races.

Kiss the Kid ran a very big race to finish fourth behind Kip Deville in the Gulfstream Turf Handicap (G1) last year, beaten only 1 ½ lengths, on the day after Shadwell Farm’s Albertus Maximus won the Donn Handicap. Jockey Eddie Castro will have the mount on Kiss the Kid.

Jockey Kent Desormeaux picks up the mount on Mambo Meister for trainer Phil Gleaves, who has opted for his chances in the Donn rather than the Gulfstream Park Turf Saturday afternoon. The highly versatile 5-year-old gelding by King Cugat won a pair of overnight stakes on turf at Calder in the spring, but made his last three starts on main tracks.

Mambo Meister earned a trip to the Breeders’ Cup when he won the Spend a Buck Handicap (G3) at Calder on Oct. 17. Three weeks later he finished a game fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) on the synthetic track at Santa Anita on Nov. 7, beaten only two lengths with trouble in the stretch.

Dry Martini is a 7-year-old gelding that boasts solid credentials in major main track events, his most recent victory coming in the Suburban Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park on July 4. Trained by Barclay Tagg, Dry Martini boasts earnings of $1.2 million and finished second to It’s a Bird in the Sunshine Millions Classic here early last year

A definite threat in the field on one of his best days would be P.A.R.J. Stable’s 6-year-old gelding Delightful Kiss with jockey Juan Leyva back aboard for trainer and co-owner Pete Anderson. The charismatic roan/gray gelding by Kissin Kris finished an even third in a seven-furlong allowance race here on Jan. 22, his first start since the Canadian Turf (G3) last year on Feb. 28.

Delightful Kiss had outstanding seasons as a 3-year-old in 2007 when he won the Iowa Derby and Ohio Derby (G2) and in 2008 when he found his best stride in log-distance events, climaxed by a strong fourth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Santa Anita and runner-up finish behind Einstein in the Clark Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs when campaigning for breeder Hobeau Farm.

Completing the field for the Donn are Edmund Gann’s You and I Forever, Elvis Trujillo; Darley Stable’s Past the Point, Edgar Prado; Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Helsinki, Robby Albarado; and Mr. Amore Stable’s Dubai Gold, Jose Lezcano.

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Older Comments about Quality Road Strong Choice in Donn...

Quality Road, as anyone who has followed his career would know, has done his best racing at Gulfstream Park, without a doubt. He loves that track, and always run's well over it. Even conceding the six pounds that he'll be giving to the most likely potential contenders, I still like Quality Road to win the Donn Handicap. Although, the extra weight may make the race a bit closer than if they were all carrying equal weight. Quality Road to win. Mambo Meister to place. Duke of Mischief to show.

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