Quality Road, with jockey John R. Velazquez, heads toward the finish line to win the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The Kentucky Derby contender has developed another quarter crack and he will be out of Saturday’s race.AP FILE PHOTO
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The trainer in Jimmy Jerkens thought maybe, just maybe, Quality Road could compete in the Kentucky Derby even with a quarter crack injury that has slowed down his training the last two weeks.
The horseman in Jerkens, however, knew otherwise.
Jerkens scratched the Florida Derby winner Monday after the 3-year-old colt missed a workout at Belmont Park, knocking one of the favorites out of Saturday’s Run for the Roses and further muddying an already cloudy Derby picture.
“We couldn’t train him so we decided we couldn’t run him,” Jerkens said. “He just isn’t sound enough.”
While Jerkens doesn’t doubt the quarter crack could be manageable by Saturday afternoon, he didn’t want to force the issue and thought a two-week layoff from serious work would be too much to ask. Quality Road’s last breeze was April 17 before the injury was discovered.
“You’re just kidding yourself if you think you can go out there and run in the biggest race in the world and haven’t trained,” Jerkens said. “It’s a shame because he’s so talented.”
Quality Road developed a quarter crack on his right front foot last week, and Jerkens kept him under wraps while he recuperated. The horse was patched up over the weekend and galloped Sunday on Belmont’s training track. While Quality Road appeared to be fine, Jerkens became concerned after finding a spot of blood on the newly patched crack.
On Monday morning, Jerkens noticed the colt’s foot was sore and that he was favoring it.
It was all Jerkens had to see. The son of Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens was looking to send out his first Derby starter but instead will likely point Quality Road to the Preakness or the Belmont.
“It’s devastating,” Jerkens said. “He’s really sensitive on the quarter. I don’t know if you’d ever get a horse into the Derby (again) with his credentials. We’ll re-patch it but we can’t do it until all the soreness is out of it.”
Quality Road has won 3-of-4 starts, including the Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Florida Derby, where he beat another top Derby contender in Dunkirk.
Quality Road’s scratch bumped Join in the Dance — the fifth-place finisher in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 11 — into the 20-horse Derby field and gives trainer Todd Pletcher another shot at reaching the infield winner’s circle at Churchill Downs.
Pletcher is 0-for-21 in the first jewel of the Triple Crown and Dunkirk figured to be his only shot this year. Now the Eclipse Award-winning trainer will saddle three, after Advice stunned Square Eddie in the Lexington on April 17.
Join in the Dance looked ready for the biggest race of the year on Monday, putting together a solid five furlong workout in 1:00.20 under Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr.
“He’s an enthusiastic work horse, so it was good to see him settle and work well today,” Pletcher said. “He should be ready now.”
Even if Join in the Dance will be a bit of a long shot.
The surer bets — if there are any to be made in one of the most wide-open fields in recent memory — will likely be on Pioneerof the Nile and I Want Revenge.
Both of those horses, however, still have plenty of questions. Pioneerof the Nile has never run on dirt, and I Want Revenge looked outclassed in California earlier this year before finding his footing in New York while winning the Gotham Stakes and the Wood Memorial.
The horse is co-owned by IEAH Stables, owners of last year’s Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown.
Michael Iavarone, who purchased a share of I Want Revenge after he won the Gotham last month, hardly seems troubled about the prospect of saddling a Derby favorite for the second straight year.
While Iavarone and trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. opted to put Big Brown on the far outside post to give him a clean trip, Iavarone doesn’t think his newest star is going to need it.
“He can win on any surface from anywhere,” Iavarone said.
“(Foot problems) can be very painful, and certainly it altered the way we tried to get him ready. Those things are part of the game but you want to make sure you do right by your horse.”