Edward P. Evans’ Virginia-bred Quality Road capably handled a significant step up in class with a 4 1/4-length romp in the $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

The one-mile Fountain of Youth drew eight stakes winners, including three graded stakes winners, and was billed as a key race on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).

Much of the attention leading up to the race was focused on graded stakes winners Capt. Candyman Can, Beethoven, and Break Water Edison as well as a trio of speedy stakes winners—This Ones for Phil, unbeaten Taqarub, and record-setting Notonthesamepage. But, it was Quality Road, making just his third start, who stole the show.

Quality Road stalked pacesetter This Ones for Phil through quick early fractions and powered well clear in the stretch en route to a convincing win in 1:35.01 on a track rated as fast. Making his stakes debut off a runner-up finish in his last start, Quality Road had all but cemented the victory by the eighth pole under John Velazquez.

Jimmy Jerkens trains Quality Road, who was sent off as the 5.50-to-1 fourth betting choice in the ten-horse field, for owner-breeder Evans. Jerkens said the Florida Derby (G1) on March 28 at Gulfstream and the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) on April 4 at Aqueduct are options for Quality Road.

“We’ve thought a lot of him from his first start,” Jerkens said. “He’s got the pedigree to go on, but a one-turn mile is still basically a sprint and a lot different than going two turns. We missed the first deadline [for Triple Crown] nominations, but we’ll put it up in March. It will just cost a little more.”

Quality Road boosted his earnings to $182,830 with two wins and one runner-up finish in three starts. He is by Elusive Quality, out of the Strawberry Road (Aus) mare Kobla, a full sister to 1997 champion three-year-old filly Ajina. Quality Road broke his maiden last November at Aqueduct winning easily on the front-end. His second start was at Gulfstream in January where he ran second to Theregoesjojo in a $37,00 allowance race after starting a step slow.

For an Equibase chart of the Foutain of Youth G2 click here.

(Bob Coglianese & AP photos)