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Quality Road set to mow down foes in Donn

Quality RoadEver since his commanding victory in the Grade I Florida Derby, Quality Road has been a presence at the track, a big bay colt oozing with promise. But ever since his crowning victory, ‘Road has had one setback after another. He would’ve been the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, but an onset of quarter cracks a’ la Big Brown kept him from entering the gates on the first Saturday in May. In his first comeback race after the Florida Derby, Quality Road set a new track record at Saratoga in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam Stakes. And when finally entered in a two-turn test again, a sloppy track and a rising giant in Summer Bird kept the ‘Road from proving he could stun at 10 furlongs. He ran into the Summer Bird roadblock again in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and then when sent to the ultimate test in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the sound of a helicopter sent the big colt into a panic, and ‘Road was scratched from the race after breaking through the starting gate and sustaining minor cuts.

Now, Quality Road has a chance to make up for all of his pratfalls. The 9-furlong Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park will pit ‘Road against older males again this Saturday, but few who have stepped up to the challenge bear the track records of his rival-classmate Summer Bird. And thus, he will be spotting the rest of the field anywhere between six and ten pounds in this handicap race, but the extra weight probably won’t impede this big, athletic colt on a fast track he happens to love.

Most recently, Quality Road won the Grade III Hal’s Hope Stakes at Gulfstream, a 1-mile test against older horses for his first start as a 4-year-old. This he won with a deft swish of the tail, sweeping the hapless field off their hoofs, and he looks to do much the same in the Donn. Though he has been billed as “the single horse to beat,” nine challengers have signed up to face him, including graded stakes winners Duke of Mischief, Kiss the Kid, Mambo Meister, Past the Point, and Delightful Kiss; not exactly the A-Team, but still a tested group. 

Also this Saturday, fan-favorite Blind Luck will be starting in the Grade I Las Virgenes at Santa Anita Park. Ever since her eye-popping romp in the Grade I Hollywood Starlet Stakes last December, Blind Luck has been earmarked as a Horse to Watch; in the Starlet, she beat such notable fillies as Bickersons, Beautician, Rose Catherine, and Amen Hallelujah. Most recently, Bickersons flattered Blind Luck’s Starlet when she ran away with a score on dirt in the Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream.

Evening JewelBlind Luck’s last start was so impressive, it seems not many horsemen are enthusiastic about entering their fillies against her, though there are a few capable challengers stepping up to the plate, including Crisp, the winner of the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes in January, and Evening Jewel, who ran away powerfully to win the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes in December at Santa Anita. Only four other fillies were brave enough to stick their necks in the same starting gate as Blind Luck.


In other racing news, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, has announced they will raise the purse to the Apple Blossom to $5 million dollars if both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will enter the race. The race, for fillies and mares four years old and upward, will be contested over 1 1/8-miles on April 3, and the handicap will be made into an evenly-weighted race, so as to not throw any bias on either filly or mare. Though both the Zenyatta and Rachel camps have expressed interest in pitting their champions against one another, the timing of the race isn’t idea for Rachel Alexandra, who has been forced to miss workouts due to the outstanding rainy conditions at Fair Grounds, where she is currently stabled. Owners Jerry and Ann Moss will most likely start their undefeated mare, Zenyatta, in the Grade I Santa Margarita Handicap on March 13, if her assigned weight isn’t too much to handle. Rachel’s next start is up in the air; her majority owner, Jess Jackson, maintains that they will “let Rachel tell [them] when she’s ready to run.” You gotta respect that; a $5 million dollar offer is pretty hard to refuse. Miss Alexandra has a lot of catching up in her workouts to do if she wants to look down the barrel of the monster from California.

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