QUALITY ROAD SCHOOLS AT GATE FOR WHITNEY

From the Daily Racing Form – Not wanting a repeat of the gate incident that forced him to scratch from last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, Quality Road had a relatively unique gate schooling session following regular training hours Monday morning in preparation for his start in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap.

Since the Whitney starts in front of the grandstand – right before the finish line – the gate was transported from the backstretch, where it stays all morning, to the frontside. Quality Road, completely tacked up and with regular rider John Velazquez on his back, and two stablemates took part in the session.

Quality Road was accompanied by a stable pony. He was handed over to assistant starter Guido Rouse, who has handled the colt previously in New York and will handle him again Saturday. Though he hesitated a time or two, Quality Road did go in without a problem and did not act up.

Quality Road was backed out and Exhi, a fellow 3-year-old who is running in Saturday’s West Virginia Derby, went into the first stall and Quality Road then went into the second stall. Bank Heist, a 2-year-old maiden also was there, but did not go into the gate with Quality Road.

Quality Road backed out of the gate and then went back to the barn.

“Couldn’t have went any better,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Well behaved in the paddock, walked right into the gate three times with horses in, without horses. I was very, very pleased.”

The last time Quality Road participated in a race that started in front of the grandstand was the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream in February and he did balk, according to Bob Duncan, a former NYRA starter who has worked frequently with Quality Road. Quality Road won the Donn by 12 3/4 lengths.

In his last start, Quality Road won the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, a race that started on the backstretch at Belmont.

“It’s going to be a little different environment starting in front of the grandstand,” Pletcher said. “We just wanted to cover all of our bases.”