Saturday, August 01, 2009


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Todd Pletcher stood outside the Oklahoma training track and contemplated the field of six lined up to contest Monday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam – including Capt. Candyman Can, Custom for Carlos, Everyday Heroes and his own Quality Road – and put the sprint stakes for 3-year-olds in perfect perspective.

“There are a lot of good horses in here,” Pletcher said. “I didn’t expect a Grade 2 at Saratoga to be easy.”

Pletcher is planning to use the 6½-furlong Amsterdam as a prep race for Quality Road, a bay son of Elusive Quality owned and bred by Edward P. Evans, but he will clearly be the horse to beat. While the Grade 1, $1 million Shadwell Travers on August 29 is the primary meet target for Quality Road, he certainly appears capable, at his best, of running away from even the top 3-year-old sprinters.

Quality Road broke his maiden last November at Aqueduct at the Amsterdam distance. Two races later he won the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream by 4½ lengths and then set a track record beating Dunkirk in the Florida Derby. A quarter crack in his right front hoof kept Quality Road out of the Kentucky Derby and in June, Evans transferred the bay colt from trainer James Jerkens to Pletcher.

The hoof is clearly healed. Quality Road blazed five furlongs in a bullet 59.38 on July 29 in preparation for the Amsterdam.

“He’s coming off a layoff; he’s sprinted well in the past,” Pletcher said. “We hope to move forward off the race, and if things go according to plan he’ll be on target for the Travers.”

Pletcher admits the Amsterdam distance is probably not Quality Road’s best, and other trainers are hoping to exploit the possibility that Quality Road is better going long.

Darley Stables’ Everyday Heroes won his first four starts by open lengths, crowning the streak with a dominant victory in the Grade 3 Hirsch Jacobs on Preakness Day at Pimlico.

After that race, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum purchased Everyday Heroes and sent him from the barn of Tim Ritchey to Kiaran McLaughlin. In his first start for his new connections, the bay son of Awesome Again finished second to Munnings in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on June 6 at Belmont.

“We’ve been pointing toward this since the Woody Stephens,” McLaughlin said. “We think he’s one of the horses to beat — different barn, agenda.”

The competition, however, runs deeper. Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can won the Grade 3 Iroquois as a 2-year-old for trainer Ian Wilkes, the Grade 2 Hutcheson in January at Gulfstream and the Grade 3 Bay Shore in April at Aqueduct. In his most recent start, he took the Matt Winn at Churchill Downs and then went to the sidelines for a break.

“The only thing I have to worry about is my horse,” Wilkes said. “He’s got to execute and not make mistakes. He’s not run a bad race for me. This is not the end-all test, but it’s a good test. I freshened him up a little bit for the race at Saratoga. He’s a little stronger now, a bigger horse. He’s got to step it up, but he’s not doing much wrong.”

Homewrecker Racing LLC and Far Avalon’s Custom for Carlos is another in with a strong chance. The bay son of More Than Ready has knocked heads with the likes of Big Drama, Warrior’s Reward and Munnings and run well. In his most recent start he crushed three others in the Grade 3 Jersey Shore on July 5 at Monmouth, running six furlongs in 1:08.

Gulf Coast Farms’ Cabaret Cowboy and Stonestreet Stables’ Captain Cherokee complete the field.

The field for the Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam

PP. Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Everyday Heroes Alan Garcia Kiaran McLaughlin 5-2
2 Custom for Carlos Julien Leparoux Eddie Kenneally 6-1
3 Cabaret Cowboy Rajiv Maragh Seth Benzel 15-1
4 Quality Road John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 6-5
5 Captain Cherokee Robby Albarado Steve Asmussen 20-1
6 Capt. Candyman Can Javier Castellano Ian Wilkes 7-2

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