Quality Road will return to Florida, where he won the Florida Derby. <br><a target="blank" href="http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/photo-store?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fpictopia.com%2Fperl%2Fgal%3Fprovider_id%3D368%26ptp_photo_id%3D7964933%26ref%3Dstory">Order This Photo</a>

Quality Road will return to Florida, where he won the Florida Derby.
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Quality Road to Skip Cigar Mile; Off to Fla.

4-year-old campaign could begin in the Hal's Hope.

It’s wait until next year for Quality Road , who will pass on the Nov. 28 Hill 'n' Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I) and instead will point for a 4-year-old campaign, which could begin in the Hal’s Hope (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park.


“He’s doing great and everything is fine, but we’ve given it a lot of thought and we decided to focus on next year,” said Chris Baker, farm manager for owner Edward Evans. “He’ll leave for Florida early next week and we’ll look to probably prepping him in the Hal’s Hope for the Donn Handicap (gr. I).”


Baker said all the extensive gate schooling since the Breeders’ Cup had to be done anyway, and he extends his gratitude to the NYRA gate crew for all their help.


“They’ll be seeing the horse again plenty, so all that effort was for a good reason and it answered a lot of questions for us and how effectively this horse will be able to race next year,” Baker said. “Granted, he hasn’t started in a race yet, but all that schooling gave us a lot of confidence that his experience at Santa Anita is not going to affect him next year.”


Baker said there were several factors involved in their decision, including the weather forecast for the weekend. Quality Road has been beaten on sloppy tracks in his last two races.


“They’re expecting rain starting Thursday night and continuing all through Friday, and it’s expected to end early Saturday morning, so you may or may not have a fast track, and we prefer to have a fast track,” Baker said.


“The others factors include the cross-country van ride from Santa Anita to Belmont Park, and interrupted training. The horse is doing great, but the question is, is he as good as he needs to be to beat the four grade I winners that are probables for the race? Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but our focus is on what’s best for the horse and on next year being potentially a defining year for him. We felt the smart thing to do, adding up all those factors, is to take the conservative route and give the horse more time and look ahead to an effective 2010 campaign.


“We’re confident we’ve got a horse who will be competing for champion older horse and Horse of the Year if we manage him well, and we hope this proves to be effective management. We certainly want his next racing experience to be a positive one in as many ways as we can control. And we feel we’ve done all we can do to help his gate schooling.”


Even with Quality Road out of the Cigar Mile, as is trainer Todd Pletcher's other big horse, Munnings, due to a foot injury, the field still will be a strong one, with grade I winners Kodiak Kowboy, Vineyard Haven, Pyro, and Bribon, as well as Driven by Success.