Traumatized Quality Road Will Van Home
Photo: Mathea Kelley
Quality Road was scratched from the Breeders' Cup Classic after acting up during the loading process.

Quality Road   not only suffered several injuries from his traumatic incident at the starting gate prior to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), he suffered mentally as well and now will have to van home to Belmont Park from California after refusing to get on the plane.

 

“He’s got stitches, he nearly knocked a tooth out, he’s got a laceration and a big bruise over one eye, and a pretty significant hematoma on his left leg,” said Chris Baker, farm manager for owner Edward P. Evans. “They appear to be passing things and soft tissue type of injuries, but he still has to recover from them and also the mental wounds.

 

“They tried to get him on the plane to leave California Monday and he wouldn’t load. He didn’t throw another fit trying to get on the plane, but they got him as close as they could get him and he was just freezing up like a horse that was going to flip over or something else. They said he’s not right about it and they weren’t going to force him to get on, which was the right choice. So, they took him back to Santa Anita and we’re probably going to have to van him back home. We’ve got some work ahead of us to get him right. We want to race him next year, and we hope this goes away. This is a smart horse, and when he has that kind of experience it’s not something he’s going to forget. He’s really shook up."

 

As it stands, Quality Road will board a van on Thursday night and be put in a double box stall and have his groom with him, and will be driven 36 hours straight through to Churchill Downs. He will lay over there for 48 hours and will leave for Belmont Park next Monday morning, where starter Bob Duncan will work with him as soon as possible to try to get him over his gate problems. If they have to, they will make arrangements to school him in the afternoon to simulate race conditions and try find out the root of his problem.

 

“Most of my regret is the bad breaks he’s had," Baker said. "He had quarter cracks and we got him over that, then we had sloppy tracks in the Travers (gr. I) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), and then we go have an experience like this. When he’s right and he’s on a fast track, you get nothing but pure brilliance and track records. I feel sorry for the horse for what he’s had to go through and for not being able to show how good he really is. The trauma he received on Saturday was pretty hard to digest. All we can do now is sort things out and try to give him a chance to show the brilliance we know he has.”

 

Baker said he’s gotten a good deal of sympathy from everyone. “I’m at the sales in Kentucky and everyone is coming over and telling me how badly they feel for me,” he said. “It was a very difficult thing to watch. It was a problem the horse started and the gate crew finished, and unfortunately, the horse was put at great risk in the process. It could have been worse had he gotten loose with that blindfold on.

 

“Todd did a lot of gate schooling with him, and he’s always good in the mornings. He’s had him to the gate three or four times between the Jockey Club Gold Cup and this race, and the horse is an angel in the morning, You can’t get him to do anything wrong. They tried to get him wound up, bringing in multiple horses and spinning him in circles, anything they can to aggravate him. He’d hesitate and then walk right in. The afternoon is a different story.

 

“Initially, the gate crew handled things what I perceived to be very properly, patting him on the head and neck and reassuring him. He already was agitated and hesitant and they tried to do things in a calm way. Then they went right away to the harsh stuff, like the blindfold. It went from not loading to dangerous pretty quickly. The one thing I feel good about is that his behavior didn’t cost anyone else a chance to run a fair race.”

 

One of Baker’s regrets is that people will get the wrong impression of the horse, based on what has been written.

 

“They say he’s crazy and a rogue, but he’s not like that at all.," Baker said. "I’ve known that horse since he was born, and he’s never been a rogue or difficult. He’s like a puppy dog in the barn. He just was upset on this day. You get in a fight with a finely tuned athlete ready to explode on the racetrack and make him angry, it’s not going to be a good situation.

 

“He’s just so big at 17 hands, and he’s long, too, so that gate is a pretty small space for him. Not being able to see because of the blindfold is what really freaked him out the most.”

 

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