The Brock Talk

Monday, September 6, 2010

Quality Road Hoping For History and Time Karma For Breeders' Cup Classic

Quality Road won the grade 1 Woodward Stakes Saturday in a gallop. A perfect preparation for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. 1) at Chuchill Downs Nov. 6 according to trainer Todd Pletcher.

“I think if he gets the 1 ¼ miles he can do it with the time in between,” Pletcher said in NYRA press notes. “For me statistically, we’ve always done well with that kind of time frame, so we’d like to come into the biggest and most important race with what we do best. Our horses tend to run their best races with that kind of spacing between them.”

But does that time frame do well statistically in the history of those that have won the Woodward and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year?

For the record, six horses have won both the Woodward Stakes at Breeders’ Cup Classic. However, two of those Woodward/Classic double winners were not able to pull it off in the same year. Skip Away won the 1998 Woodward after winning the 1997 Breeders’ Cup Classic and Cigar followed a similar path winning the 2007 Classic and 2008 Woodward.

Relative to Quality Road trying to jump from the Woodward winner’s circle to winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year, four are among that group: Alysheba (1988), Cigar (’95), Ghostzapper (2004) and St. Liam (’05).

However, both Alysheba and Cigar made starts between their Woodward wins and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Alysheba won the grade 1 Meadowlands Cup at 1-1/4 miles in 1:58.80 to become the only horse in the modern era at that time to break the 2-minute barrier at 10 furlongs three times in the same year. Alysheba, jockey Chris McCarron and trainer Jack Van Berg then solidified the Horse of the Year golden trophy with a Breeders’ Cup Classic win over Seeking the Gold on a dark and rainy early evening at Churchill Downs.

In 1995, Cigar had just defeated Best Pal, Tinner’s Way, Concern and Urgent Request in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. 1) in southern California before trainer Bill Mott returned him to New York for the Woodward in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Cigar was looking for his eighth win in eight starts for the year and his 10th consecutive career win. He would win the Woodward, the Jockey Club Gold and the Breeders’ Cup Classic to extend his winning streak to 12.

The only two horses to have won the Breeders’ Cup Classic directly out of the Woodward were Ghostzapper in 2004 and St. Liam the next year.

Interestingly, St. Liam had an eerily similar year in 2005 to Quality Road’s 2010 campaign. Both won the Donn Handicap (gr. 1) at Gulfstream Park. Both then won grade 1 stakes before finishing second in the Whitney Handicap (gr. 1) at Saratoga. Quality Road was runner-up to Blame while St. Liam was second to Commentator in the Whitney. In 2005 St. Liam went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont Park. The question remains for Quality Road.

Looking at Quality Road’s year, however, seems to add credence to the strategy of taking 63 days between the Woodward and the Classic. The son of Elusive Quality seems to enjoy time between races. It was 113 days between his win in the Donn and the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park. It was then 67 days before his loss by a head to Blame while carrying five additional pounds in the Whitney. If anything, 63 days may even a bit short in terms of vacation time between races.

“I think there was a lot more in the tank based on the way he came back [after the Woodward]; he was hardly even blowing,” Pletcher said.

That is a tank that will have to be primed against the likes of possibly Blame, Zenyatta and Looking at Lucky in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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