(Edited NYRA release)
Edward P. Evans’ Quality Road put in his final breeze before the Aug. 29, $1-million Shadwell Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course, covering five furlongs over the muddy main track in :59.68, fourth fastest of 24 at the distance on the morning of Aug. 24.
"It felt good, very good. I wanted to do enough, but not let him do too much," said jockey John Velazquez, on board for the work in company with stablemate Unbridled Belle, a 6-year-old mare also trained by Todd Pletcher. "As soon as I got right to the other horse, he got into the bridle and then I had him slow down a little bit. I didn’t want to let him do too much down the lane."
Pletcher, too, seemed pleased with the work.
"I thought he went well," Pletcher said. "We were shooting for a minute to a minute-one and we were pretty close to that. It looked like he galloped out well."
Originally set for a Sunday morning work, the Elusive Quality colt’s schedule was influenced by rainy weather this weekend and he was sent out just before 9 a.m. Monday morning, immediately following the renovation break.
"We needed this work to set ourselves up and he handled it well," Pletcher said. "In a perfect world, we’d have worked on a perfectly fast race track. But, the forecast didn’t look like it was going to definitely be better tomorrow so we felt like we needed to get in and go. I walked both tracks this morning and I felt like the main track was quite a bit better than the training track, so I decided to go at 8:45 and it worked out fine."
Quality Road enters the Travers off a record-breaking win in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga on Aug. 3. It was the colt’s third graded stakes win and second track record in a row, and marked his first start after a four-month layoff due to foot problems. After winning the BlackBerry Presents the 58th Running of the Florida Derby (gr. I) in track-record time while under the care of previous trainer James Jerkens, Quality Road was sidelined by a pair of quarter cracks that kept him from running in the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) In June, he was transferred to Pletcher’s barn with the 1 1/4-mile Shadwell Travers a primary objective.
"He came back and he’s cooling out good so far – doesn’t seem to blowing all that hard," Pletcher said as he watched the horse walk following Monday’s work. "I think we’ve got him in as good a position as we could be in with one race under our belt."
Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird galloped two miles Monday morning at Saratoga and is set to have his final Travers tune-up on Aug. 25.
"Right now he’s 100%," said trainer Chip Woolley of Mine That Bird, who underwent minor surgery Aug. 18 to repair an entrapped epiglottis. "The doctor [Dr. James Hunt] scoped him this morning and his words were ‘excellent, perfect.’ He said if it were going to get some irritation we would have seen it by now."
Jamie Theriot will be aboard the gelding for the breeze over the main track at 8 a.m., right after the renovation break, said Woolley.
Summer Bird, second to Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I), walked Monday morning and will return to the track to jog Tuesday. On Wednesday, said trainer Tim Ice, the son of 2004 Travers winner Birdstone will do "two-minute clip" the final quarter during his gallop.
"From the quarter-pole home, he’ll open up," said Ice. "It’s slower than a work but faster than a gallop."
Summer Bird will jog Thursday and gallop Friday, said the trainer.
Charitable Man, third as the favorite to Kensei in the Jim Dandy (gr. II), galloped two miles over the muddy main track early this morning for owner William K. Warren, Jr. and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
"There was no concern about him going over the track," McLaughlin said. "It seemed like the track was getting better throughout the morning. Otherwise, he’s doing fine."
Charitable Man breezed four furlongs last Friday in 47.45 seconds.
This will be the first Travers for both Warren and McLaughlin.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott postponed WinStar Farm’s Hold Me Back’s work out until Tuesday morning after seeing Monday’s muddy track conditions.
Mott said he will have Hold Me Back either on the Oklahoma training track at 6 a.m. or the main track at 8 a.m., shortly after the break.
"It depends on what these tracks do over the course of the morning," Mott said. "I cannot control the weather."
This will be the fourth and final workout at Saratoga for Hold Me Back, who won the grade II Lane’s End at Turfway Park in March followed by a second-place effort in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. After finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby, the Giant's Causeway colt tried turf in the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs on July 18 and finished fifth.