I've heard and read plenty about the minor injury Quality Road suffered in the gr. 1 Florida Derby on March 28. Television commentators, jockeys, turf writers all have offered their opinions on the effects the quarter crack in his right hind hoof may have on his Kentucky Derby performance. After his impressive bullet workout at Belmont Park last Friday, many of those questions appeared to be answered but I still have questions.
So I called Dr. Patrick Reeves, a former racetrack veterinarian in Kentucky, Florida and New York and who treated such horses as 1997 Belmont Stakes (gr. 1) winner Touch Gold. Dr. Reeves currently has a large and small animal veterinary practice in Fort Worth, Texas and just as important for our purposes, is a very good horse player.
I wanted to know his opinion of the quarter crack injury and its potential effect on Quality Road next Saturday in the Derby. "Obviously, I can’t make an evaluation of the injury without seeing it," Dr. Reeves said. But he did offer some insight from the perspective of an equine practioner. With regard to the work he said, "A good work is a good indication, but not a complete indication." Reeves said that even in the short time since he practiced on the track in the 1990s, treatments for quarter cracks and supportive shoes have advanced making it easier for horses to recover. But a quarter crack can sometimes surprisingly reoccur.
But then he spoke from the point of view of a horseplayer. "I would be more concerned about the horse’s fitness than I would be over the actual injury," he said. "Because of how it may have affected his training schedule." Even if it was a short respite from training following the Florida Derby, any kind of alteration in his schedule leading up to the biggest horse in the world still leaves room for concern.
Quality Road may win the Derby. He is getting plenty of respect as evidenced by The Daily Racing Form's Mike Watchmaker who has him listed as a solid second choice in the Derby at 5-1. But I'm going to have to leave him off of the top spot on my trifecta and maybe even put him only in the third spot of the wager.