Weekly Recap: Road to May 2 Full of Quality

There were two races over the weekend that had the attention of most of the racing world and while they were a world apart, there’s no doubt both results were quite impressive.   A year ago WinStar Farm’s Well Armed made the lead in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (G1) but couldn’t hold up to the pressure of defending Horse of the Year Curlin.  He proved he was a very good horse with a strong 2nd half of 2008 with wins in the San Diego (G2), a close 2nd in the Pacific Classic (G1)  and a win in the Goodwood (G2). 

After two shaky efforts to begin this year there was hope that a return to dirt, and a surface over which he had already scored, would bring out the best in Well Armed.  A couple of days of rain made for a drying out surface that strongly favored speed and that moved up Well Armed considerably but even the most astute bias player couldn’t have expected him to win in such dominating fashion.  He was significantly better than his rivals in the warm desert air and an electrifying charge thru the final 600 meters provided the perfect ending to the final Dubai World Cup being run at Nad Al Sheba.  The 2010 rendition will be run at Meydan City and one cannot predict if Well Armed will win, or if he’ll even show up, but there’s no doubt he reigned over the 2009 field. 

Click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbrfIpDWuRA to view the World Cup.

The $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) was the other heavily anticipated event of the weekend and the showdown we had anticipated took place with the highly regarded upstart Dunkirk confronting Fountain of Youth winner Quality Road entering the stretch.  The most surprised person in the world as the field approched the top of the stretch seemed to be John Velazquez as he had Quality Road on cruise control as Dunkirk circled up on his outside.  He then set down his powerful son of Elusive Quality at once and only seconds later it was clear who was superior on the afternoon.  However, the discussion that has emanated from comments made by Dunkirk’s trainer Todd Pletcher has created serious doubt among some racing fans. 

The first point that must be considered about Pletcher’s complaints is that he was right.  The track was souped up for the marquee event of the meet, which was clear after Big Drama and This Ones For Phil stopped the clock in 1:20 and 4/5 in the Swale, 30 minutes prior to the Florida Derby.  Quality Road then contested what would normally be considered strong fractions before finishing the 9 furlongs in 1:47 and 3/5.  Again, Pletcher was right.  But, a souped up track is not necessarily speed favoring.  In fact, a souped up track is generally a fair one, as evidenced by one of the most infamous souped up tracks in recent memory, the Churchill strip on May 5, 2001.  Blazing times were being put up left and right that afternoon but Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos came from almost 15 lengths out to score going away, obviously aided by the fastest pace in the history of the storied event. 

You must also let everyone who thinks that the GP main oval was speed favoring yesterday know that the winners throughout the card were 9/5, 9-10, 2-1, 4-1, 3-1, 8/5, 6/5, 3-1…thus, the results were formful. 

No matter what you think about the result or the 1-2 finishers going forward, the performance of Quality Road answered a serious question about his ability to go long.  He further proved that the progeny of Elusive Quality are quite versatile and are not necessarily the milers everyone labels them.  Quality Road is clearly a horse whose potential is vast and he is a serious player on the Derby trail.  He further proves that the 2009 crop is significantly more interesting than what we dealt with a year ago.  Take a gander at the Florida Derby once again along with Pletcher’s post-race remarks.

We’ll be back on Tuesday evening to look ahead at the first week on the main track at Aqueduct along with the opening of Keeneland.  Until then good luck at the races!

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