Saturday, March 28, 2009

Quality Road Delivers in Florida Derby

Quality Road Delivers in Florida Derby

Quality Road turned back a bid from even-money favorite Dunkirk in upper stretch and drew away for a sensational 1 3/4-length victory in the $750,000 Florida Derby (gr. I) (VIDEO) March 28 at Gulfstream Park. The son of Elusive Quality set a new 1 1/8-mile course record in 1:47.72.

A Virginia homebred of Edward Evans, Quality Road earned his second consecutive graded stakes win and established himself as one of the top contenders for the $2-million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 2 at Churchill Downs. He banked $450,000 for the score.

With John Velazquez aboard, Quality Road took advantage of a quick early pace set by longshot Casey's On Call, who posted splits of :23.49 for a quarter-mile and :46.83 for a half-mile. The Jimmy Jerkens trainee made his winning move midway on the far turn, while Theregoesjojo, also close-up throughout, came up to challenge under Kent Desormeaux. Quality Road covered six furlongs in 1:10.66 and had things his own way turning for home.

But Dunkirk, a $3.7-million yearling making only his third start for trainer Todd Pletcher, came from off the pace with a bold five-wide move under Garrett Gomez and was Quality Road’s biggest threat when they straightened away. Dunkirk, who scored a convincing allowance victory at the Florida Derby distance Feb. 19, looked Quality Road in the eye in upper stretch and appeared to have the leader at his mercy with a furlong remaining. But Quality Road found more and slowly inched clear until putting the race away inside the sixteenth-pole.

“I was just biding my time," Velazquez said. "He relaxed. I didn’t have to wrestle him going into the backside. I didn’t really think it was a lot (objection). He got close to me, but never passed me.”