Quality Road: landed the Hal's Hope Stakes at Gulfstream Park on SundayPICTURE: Equisport Photos/ Matt Wooley
Quality Road gets season off to a winning start
Report: USA, Sunday
Gulfstream Park: Hal's Hope Stakes (Grade 3) 1m dirt 4yo+
QUALITY ROAD started the new season in much better fashion than he had ended the last as he cruised to a near three-length victory in the Hal's Hope.
There were no antics at the starting gate like those that made him a last-minute non-runner in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on November 7, as he went to the lead soon after the start and was never seriously threatened.
"He was acting perfectly in the gate," said jockey John Velazquez. "There were never any concerns there. Once we got out, he just did everthing nice and easy.
"With the way we've been breezing him, when You And I Forever came up beside him, I had to let him know it was time to do some running and he just took off from there. I was never really worried."
The first 2f was run in a pedestrian 25.16sec and a challenge to Quality Road never materialised until You And I Forever made a move from along the rail at the top of the straight. He ran on to finish second ahead of closing outsider Congressional Page.
Sent away the 2-5 favourite, Quality Road completed the 1m over fast going in 1min 36.33.
"It was a good race; he likes the Gulfstream track," trainer Todd Pletcher said - a bit of an understatement as Quality Road had won the Fountain of Youth Stakes and Florida Derby there last year to establish himself the favourite for the Kentucky Derby.
Quarter cracks ended his Derby dream, though he did return to win the Grade 2, 6½f Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga in track-record time before finishing third in the Travers Stakes and second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (both races run over sloppy going) behind Summer Bird.
"We'll point him now for the Donn Handicap [Grade 1, 1m1f , February 6]," said Pletcher. "Then he might get a little break and point for the big races in the summer and fall."