The day that Quality shone through

  • By John Boyce

Belmont Stakes day was remarkable not least for the fact that we witnessed the 13th US Triple Crown winner Justify. But the undercard – if we can all it that – also featured two Grade 1 winners by Quality Road in the filly Able Tasman, winner of the Ogden Phipps, and the gelding Spring Quality, who took the Manhattan on turf. He also had two further Stakes winners on the same day at other venues in North America, including the Grade 2 Honeymoon Stakes heroine, Paved at Santa Anita. 

Although he sired Royal Ascot scorer Hootenanny from his first crop, European agents and breeders have largely ignored Quality Road’s potential and his story so far belongs in North America. He was a truly outstanding racehorse, arguably as good as anything by his sire Elusive Quality. A measure of the high regard in which he was held can be gleaned from his Timeform rating of 131. Smarty Jones, rated 134, and Raven’s Pass, rated 133, were considered by Timeform better sons of Elusive Quality, but the sheer brilliance of Quality Road’s performances deserve comment.

Hootenanny, from Quality Road’s first crop, wins the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Hootenanny, from Quality Road’s first crop, wins the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Quality Road raced 13 times over three seasons. In no fewer than 11 of those outings he recorded triple-digit speed figures. On his sole outing at two, over 6.5 furlongs at Aqueduct, he earned a massive Beyer of 101. A Beyer of 100 or more by a two-year-old is virtually unheard of and equates to a Timeform rating of over 130. His brilliance was again clearly evident early in his three-year-old season when he won the Grade 2 Fountain Of Youth (Beyer 113) and Grade 1 Florida Derby (Beyer 111), in which he established a new track record. 

Favourite for the Kentucky Derby, Quality Road was to miss the Triple Crown due to two separate quarter cracks, the first sustained when winning the Florida Derby. Back to the races in August and now switched from Jimmy Jerkens to Todd Pletcher, he showed he’d lost none of his sparkle by taking the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga (Beyer 110 and a new track record) over 6.5 furlongs. Clearly brilliant at up to nine furlongs, Quality Road wasn’t quite as effective going a mile-and-a-quarter – his next two starts yielded a third in the Grade 1 Travers and second in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. He ended that season by refusing to load into the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. 

Back at four, he resumed winning ways in a Grade 3 at Gulfstream Park – a prelude to his outstanding victory in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, when recording a huge Beyer of 121 on the way to lowering his own track record. That year, he also added victories in the Grade 1 Met Mile and Grade 1 Woodward, but was pulled up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic due to a foot abscess.

QUALITY ROAD'S STAKES WINNERS
Form Horse Born Sex Dam Broodmare Sire Starts-1-2-3 MWD
G1w ABEL TASMAN 2014 F Vargas Girl UP DEPUTY MINISTER 13-7-4-0 9
G1w CALEDONIA ROAD 2015 F COME A CALLIN W DIXIE UNION 5-3-1-0 8.5
G1w CITY OF LIGHT 2014 C Paris Notion UR DEHERE 8-4-3-1 9
G1w HOOTENANNY 2012 C More Hennessy UP HENNESSY 16-5-3-1 8
G1w ILLUMINANT 2012 F SPARKLING NUMBER LRw POLISH NUMBERS 14-6-2-1 9
G1w KLIMT 2014 C Inventive WLRp DIXIE UNION 8-3-2-1 7
G1w SALTY 2014 F Theycallmeladyluck WLRp DIXIE UNION 11-4-2-2 8.5
G1w SPRING QUALITY 2012 G Spring Star P DEPUTY MINISTER 11-6-3-0 11
G2wG1p FRANK CONVERSATION 2013 C Rushen Heat WLRp UNUSUAL HEAT 19-4-2-4 9
G2w BLOFELD 2012 C STORM MINSTREL LRw STORM CAT 14-4-0-1 8
G2w HIGH RIDGE ROAD 2012 F DETECT W DEVIL'S BAG 14-5-2-4 8
G2w PAVED 2015 F SIRMIONE LRw COZZENE 6-3-0-3 9
G2w ROAD TO VICTORY 2015 F Favoritism UR TIZNOW 3-3-0-0 8.5
G3wG1p GREAT STUFF 2012 C Sumptuous WLRp HENNESSY 31-7-7-7 8.3
G3w COWBOY CULTURE 2014 C English Willow UP SMART STRIKE 9-5-0-0 8.5
G3w GUEST SUITE 2014 G GUEST HOUSE W GHOSTZAPPER 14-4-1-3 8.5
G3w LONG HAUL BAY 2014 C FRENCH SATIN G3wG2p FRENCH DEPUTY 5-3-1-0 7
G3w PRINCESS LA QUINTA 2014 F Social Scene UP TABASCO CAT 15-4-1-5 9
LRw MARENGO ROAD 2013 C GAC'S TOMBOY W UNBRIDLED'S SONG 19-5-3-0 8.5
LRw OVERPREPARED 2012 F Daily Special UR DAYJUR 6-2-0-2 8.3
LRw SASHIMI BLASTER 2014 F PENTATONIC G3wG1p CURE THE BLUES 15-3-2-3 8
SRwG3p DIAMOND KING 2015 C Akron Moon WLRp MALIBU MOON 7-4-0-1 9
SRwG3p GUY CABALLERO 2014 G Dixie Chicken WLRp RAHY 13-2-1-3 9
SRwLRp TOP QUALITY 2014 F Lemon Bay UR BERNARDINI 9-3-1-2 8.5
SRw FIVE STAR RAMPAGE 2013 F Genisa P STORM CAT 16-5-2-3 8.5
SRw LIONITE 2015 C SUMMER RAINBOW LRw SUMMER SQUALL 7-2-2-1 8.5
SRw MASTER MERION 2014 G HIGH MAINTENANCE LRwG3p DANEHILL 11-4-5-1 8

Quality Road’s hallmark was his uncompromising speed at up to nine furlongs. His 121 Beyer winning the Donn has not been bettered since at distances above a mile. Retired to Lane’s End at a fee of $35,000, he has established himself as the best sire son of Elusive Quality. His ratio of Stakes winners to runners stands at 8.9% which fairly reflects what his mares suggested he should achieve. Only Raven’s Pass (8.4% Stakes winners to runners), Great Notion (8.1%) and Smarty Jones (6.0%) among Elusive Quality sons with 100 or more runners get close to him, while Elusive City has recorded 8.3% from his southern hemisphere runners. 

Moreover, when we look at stallions descending from Gone West, we find that Quality Road has only Speightstown (11.7%), Speightstown’s son Munnings (10.7%) and Zafonic (10.1%) ahead of him – and he’s easily outpointing his own sire who has sired 7.6% Stakes winners to runners from his northern hemisphere foals.

Quality Road is by a world-record turf miler who’s left plenty of accomplished turf runners and has a broodmare sire who excelled on grass, plus a third dam, Highest Trump, who won the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot. It’s not surprising then that Quality Road should show some propensity for getting turf runners. His first crop featured three Grade 1 winners on grass, Hootenanny, who took the Windsor Castle and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and ran second in the Prix Morny; Gamely heroine Illuminant, plus Spring Quality. So, don’t be surprised to see many more major turf runners from this talented son of Elusive Quality.

So far, Quality Road is two-for-two with daughters of Deputy Minister, that is two Grade 1 winners from two runners – Able Tasman and Spring Quality. Dixie Union mares have produced three Grade 1 winners from nine runners, while Storm Cat mares have two Stakes winners from nine runners. Perhaps significantly, AP Indy mares have yet to produce a Stakes winners from 13 runners.

Given the huge success of Elusive Quality in Europe – 27 Stakes winners, including Group 1 winners Raven’s Pass, Elusive Kate, Certify and Elusive City – it might be just about time for Europeans to sit up and take a keener interest in his most accomplished sire son.

About the author

John Boyce

John Boyce grew up on a stud farm and is a bloodstock journalist and former editor of Pacemaker and of The Thoroughbred Breeder. He has been part of the Darley/Godolphin team since 2001 as Group Marketing Head and then Group Head of Research. He is currently responsible for stallion and broodmare analysis to help the organisation’s stud, sales and marketing teams.

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