AT THE GATE: LET’S GET THIS OVER WITH…

At some point on Saturday, expect lots of talk about Quality Road’s “mental meltdown” at the starting gate prior to being scratched from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
According to various sources, the big colt’s behavior at the starting gate should not be a factor this time around.

As has been well documented, after being the first horse to scratch at the gate from a BC race and scaring everybody half-to-death, Edward P. Evans’ homebred went back to school at Belmont Park. Under the guidance of NYRA starter Bob Duncan, the Elusive Quality colt has regained his poise, his confidence and his manners.

“It’s been a big help,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “The first thing we did is make sure when we went back to the gate everything went smoothly. The amazing thing was that you would think the horse would have some bad memories from that, but literally the first time we went back to the gate he walked right in.”

And that’s exactly what he’s done ever since.
“You can point your finger at him and he knows just where to go,” Duncan said.
Quality Road schooled at the Churchill Downs’ starting gate early Wednesday morning in the dark to get him used to the expected darkness and lights for Saturday’s post time of 6:45 p.m.
“He did everything fine,” Duncan added.
Pletcher still believes it was how the starting gate crew at Santa Anita reacted, rather than Quality Road that caused the dust up and eventual scratch.
“I just don’t think he was handled properly,” Pletcher said, noting the buggy whip and blindfold used on QR. “I don’t think that necessarily would have happened somewhere else.”

On Saturday, Quality Road will be the first horse loaded after drawing the one-hole, another little quirk the multiple Grade I winner has to overcome.

“I don’t think that he’s cursed,” Pletcher said. “The one-hole is probably not as big a deal in a 12-horse field with one starting gate as it is in the Kentucky Derby because of where they position the gate. So we won’t have to worry about breaking and running into the rail because there will be plenty of space there. I would have preferred a different post but, it’s not bad.”

A victory by Quality Road would give Pletcher a good shot at his first Horse of the Year.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “Winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic would be gratifying no matter what, but with him it would be extra special partly because of last year.”