Sometimes serendipity rears its head and stares us right in the face as deadlines approach. Such was the case the weekend of July 22-23 when four of the 10 leading sires were from three different branches of the Mr. Prospector line. This space has examined three over the past year: Unbridled’s Song, Candy Ride (both Fappiano branch), and Curlin , a son of Smart Strike.
Sticking his nose under the tent was what some might consider a surprise entrant—Quality Road , a son of Elusive Quality, whose own sire Gone West has established his branch of the Mr. Prospector line over the years with such sires as Speightstown (14th on the 2017 list) and Grand Slam.
With four crops racing, Quality Road’s appearance on the list coincides with the thrilling victory by his daughter Abel Tasman in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), with another daughter, Salty, finishing third. That performance, like all of Abel Tasman’s other victories, came on dirt, and Quality Road is the leading fourth-crop sire with earnings from dirt performers.
Perhaps Quality Road raised eyebrows with his appearance at the top of the stallion list, but this horse has a history of sneaking up on you, beginning at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale when he failed to bring his reserve at $110,000. The scopy colt went back to Virginia for his breeder, Edward P. “Ned” Evans, and into training.
Out of the non-winning Kobla, by Strawberry Road, Quality Road has a deceptive up-close female pedigree that might have been somewhat misleading to potential buyers. His second dam, Winglet, by Alydar, was a grade 2 winner, and she was in turn produced by the very good European stakes winner and multiple graded stakes producer Highest Trump (by Bold Bidder). The latter seemed to pass on stamina, and on the page the indications could have been that the first three dams might have put too much stamina into play. Of course, if you went back a few generations, you’d see that Quality Road’s eighth dam is Myrtlewood (by Blue Larkspur), a foundation mare from whom both Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew eventually descended.
A good-sized colt with an excellent balance of power and stride, Quality Road came out late as a 2-year-old for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, winning his debut at 6 1/2 furlongs at Aqueduct, then finished second in an allowance race in January at Gulfstream. From there he went on to establish himself the best 3-year-old in the East with victories in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Florida Derby (G1), but a quarter crack put him out of the Triple Crown. He came back at Saratoga, under Todd Pletcher, with a brilliant track-record performance in the 6 1/,2-furlong Amsterdam Stakes (G2) and closed his sophomore campaign with a third-place finish in the Shadwell Travers Stakes (G1) and a second-place finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), both to eventual champion Summer Bird.
Quality Road made six starts at 4, winning the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) and Donn Handicap, Metropolitan Handicap, and Woodward Stakes (all G1), finishing second to Blame in the Whitney Handicap (G1). Quality Road was the challenger as champion older male until finishing up the track in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) won by Blame. He retired to Lane’s End Farm at a $35,000 stud fee.
Much like in his racing career, Quality Road’s stud exploits reflect the versatility of both his wide-ranging female family and his sire. Elusive Quality has been versatile, with such champion as Smarty Jones and Raven's Pass, winning grade 1 races at 10 furlongs, and Elusive City and Sepoy burning up tracks at 2 in Europe and Australia, respectively.
Without much fanfare Quality Road got three really nice graded winners from his first crop in different specialties: Hootenanny , winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T); Illuminant, winner of the nine-furlong Gamely Stakes (G1T), and Blofeld , winner of three grade 2 races around one turn on dirt. His son Klimt won the Del Mar Futurity (G1) last year and helped Quality Road seal the leading third-crop sire title.
Then came Abel Tasman and Salty and nine other stakes winners this year, seven of whom are graded and an equal number 3-year-olds. Say what? He just keeps sneaking up on you.