BREEDERS’ CUP UNKIND TO VA-BREDS

Quality Road leaving the paddock.

For the first time in history, three Virginia-breds when to post in Breeders’ Cup races. Unfortunately, none of the talented trio fund their way to the winner’s circle.

Multiple grade 1 winner and track record setter, Quality Road, was again Breeders’ Cup unlucky when he drew the # 1 post for the $5 million Breeders Cup Classic. Evans’ homebred by Elusive Quality, out of Kobla by Strawberry Road (AUS) was meant to break sharply in an attempt to get clear of the lead and off of the rail. When asked earlier in the week what would happen if Quality Road could not get off the rail shortly after the break, jockey John Velazquez said, “We’re screwed.”

Velazquez comment was unusually frank and unfortunately prophetic as Quality Road lost all chances for winning the race, the Eclipse for Older Male and Horse of the Year when he was stuck down on a rail described after the race as “loose and deep.”

He clearly didn’t care for the going, moving off the rail in turn two but lacking any response after floundering early.

“Johnny just said he never got on track, never got going,” trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday morning. “He said he was spinning his wheels on the track and was stuck down on the inside. He never got into a good rhythm.”

During the week, Velazquez had said he was concerned about having Quality Road break from the No. 1 post position. However, he did break well enough from there, but began backing up with about a quarter mile left in the 1 1/4 mile race.

It was a disappointing end to a brilliant career. As it was the first time in Quality Road’s 13-race career that he failed to hit the board.

“He has been so consistent through his career that it was a surprise,” Pletcher said. “It just wasn’t his day.”

Malibu Prayer leading the field.

Edward P. Evans’ other grade 1 winner Malibu Prayer took on a very deep field in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. The four-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon with Garrett Gomez in the irons set the pace along the inside, but dropped back steadily after six furlongs. The outcome surprised her connections who thought the slow pace for the first half-mile (49.09) was perfect for her front-running style. As it turned out, her race was remarkably similar to Quality Road’s some 24 hours later.

Bert and Diana Firestone’s Winchester became the second choice in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf when Arc and English Derby winner Workforce scratched. Winchester, by Theatrical (IRE, out of Rum Charger (IRE) by Spectrum (IRE), wound up fourth beaten 3.75 lengths. Winchester was on the rail early, shifted out three wide for the stretch drive but couldn’t catch the eventual winner.

(Photos: Top by G. Petty, Bottom by Horsephotos.com/NTRA)