Quality Road Towers Over Woodward Rivals

At the beginning of the year, when trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Edward P. Evans began mapping out Quality Road’s run to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it included several key stops, including the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, the Grade 1 Met Mile, and the Grade 1 Whitney.


Everything was going according to plan until the final yards of the Whitney, when Quality Road was nabbed at the wire by Blame for his first loss of the year.


Saturday, Quality Road’s connections are looking for the Elusive Quality colt to get back on track when he faces six others in the 57th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward, one of the Labor Day weekend highlights at Saratoga Race Course.


“We were a half-a-head short of [being unbeaten] this year,” said Pletcher of Quality Road’s 4-year-old campaign. “Every race is paramount; they’re all important. If you lose, you regroup and try again, to regain his confidence, and regain our confidence.”


In the Whitney, Quality Road found himself alone on an easy lead, and wound up surprised in the final jumps by the fast-closing Blame. In the Woodward, Pletcher is hoping the speedy Arcodoro, front-running winner of two of his three starts this year, will give Quality Road a target in the 1 1/8th-mile race.


“We’re hoping for someone to show enough initiative so he can follow someone,” said Pletcher, who will again give John Velazquez a leg up on Quality Road, the 1-4 favorite from post position 3. “That would be our Plan A.”


Arcodoro, owned by Southern Equine Stable, went wire-to-wire as a 44-1 longshot at the Spa on July 31 to win an allowance going the Woodward distance, earning a 90 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort. With David Cohen back aboard, the 4-year-old Medaglia d’Oro colt will leave from post position 4 at odds of 30-1.


Tranquil Manner, who also won a 1 1/8th-mile race at Saratoga, steps back into graded stakes company in the Woodward. Fifth in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap at 1 ½ miles, the A.P. Indy colt rallied from last to beat a solid field in an optional claimer on August 11.


“It’s a bit of a stretch,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Tranquil Manner for Darley Stable. “Obviously, we don’t have any visions of beating Quality Road. But he’s an A.P. Indy colt, and if he hits the board it would help his value as a stallion. Plus, we have 12 seconds this meet, and it would be nice to get 13.”


With Alan Garcia up, Tranquil Manner will leave from post position 6 at 15-1 on the morning line.


Two colts who have tangled with Quality Road before are back for another try –

Convocation, who was fourth in the Met Mile on Memorial Day, and 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who was fifth, beaten 12 ½ lengths, in the Whitney.

Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, who last week won the Grade 1 Travers with Afleet Express, Convocation followed the Met Mile with a second to Haynesfield in the Grade 2 Suburban and a victory in an optional claimer on August 4.


“He has a victory at the distance here,” said Jerkens of Convocation, who breezed a half-mile in 48.66 Tuesday. “You have to think that’s big going into a stakes.”


With Javier Castellano aboard, Convocation drew the rail and was listed at 6-1 on the morning line.


Mine That Bird, who has not won since his 50-1 upset in last year’s Run for the Roses, got a new trainer this spring in Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. On Saturday, he will get a change of equipment with the addition of blinkers, and a new rider in Rajiv Maragh.


“We needed to move forward,” said Lukas, for whom Mine That Bird is winless in two starts. “The blinkers, the rider change – we weren’t getting results with the way things were.”


The 4-year-old gelding drew post 2 at 10-1 on the morning line.


Mythical Power, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, makes his East coast debut in the Woodward. The 4-year-old Congaree colt, whose career highlights include victories in the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby in 2009 and the Grade 3 Texas Mile in April, has been stabled at trainer John Terranova’s barn since the middle of August and has worked twice over the main track, most recently turning in a bullet 1:00 1/5 on August 27.


Martin Garcia comes in to ride Mythical Power, 12-1 on the morning line from post 7.


Indian Dance, who finished eighth in his career debut at the Spa last August, returns to Saratoga from the mid-Atlantic, where he was 4-1-0 from eight starts, most recently a fourth in the Majestic Light at Monmouth Park. With Kent Desormeaux up, the 4-year-old Indian Charlie gelding drew post 5 at odds of 20-1.


The field for the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward:








Convocation (KY)

J Castellano


J A Jerkens



Mine That Bird (KY)

R Maragh


D W Lukas



Quality Road (VA)

J R Velazquez


T A Pletcher



Arcodoro (KY)

D Cohen


E J Guillot



Indian Dance (MD)

K J Desormeaux


L E Murray



Tranquil Manner (KY)

A Garcia


K P McLaughlin



Mythical Power (KY)

M Garcia


B Baffert





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