When Edward P. Evans’s Florida Derby (G1) hero Quality Road takes to the track for the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs in three weeks it will fulfill a dream for his connections as well as the rider on the pony guiding the 3-year-old beneath the Twin Spires.
Gulfstream Park’s outrider Lisa Wintermote and her 9-year-old Quarter Horse pony Hollywood will have the honor of leading Quality Road to and from the barn that week and will march alongside in the post parade to the strains of “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Wintermote and Hollywood have had a front-row seat to most of the top performances this winter and spring, and her morning conversations with Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, father of Quality Road’s conditioner Jimmy Jerkens, led to getting the gig alongside the colt on May 2 in Louisville.
“’The Chief’ has been so nice to me this winter and he put me in touch with Jimmy,” said Wintermote. “I will drive my two horses up the Monday before and be there when Quality Road flies in the next day.”
Wintermote is very excited, but she also realizes she’s not the show. That thinking is why Hollywood has the job and not her other pony, Phoenix, a flashy Paint, does not.
“Hollywood is good-looking, but he’s pretty plain,” said Wintermote. “We didn’t want the other horse distracting or taking away from Quality Road. Phoenix is pretty striking and stands out in a crowd.”
According to Wintermote, Quality Road has already stood out from the crowd of great runners she’s helped herd, pull up and guide this season.
“It looks like Quality Road could go into the race as one of the favorites,” she said. “So many of the Gulfstream horses have gone everywhere and won. This is where the best horses are in the winter, and for him to win like he did and break a track record, it says a lot.”
Quality Road defeated Dunkirk in the Florida Derby on Mar. 28 and set a track record for 1 1/8 miles of 1:47.72.
No Surgery for Marquez – Hope for June 1st Return
Carlos Marquez Jr. will miss about six weeks in the saddle after a second opinion from Dr. Johannes Blom advised surgery wouldn’t be necessary on the jockey’s broken metacarpal bone.
The Hollywood, Fla.-based orthopedic surgeon reset the bone in Marquez’s right hand and finger and said he would take about a month to heal.
“It was a good sign,” said Joe Burdo, Marquez’s agent. “The doctor said there was always a risk of infection and probably a longer time to heal if he had the surgery. We could have gone to two or three other guys, but this guy has helped jockeys before and it made us feel good. It was a lot better than we thought.”
Marquez injured his hand when Patricia Generazio’s Classy Concorde acted up in the starting gate of the seventh race on Apr. 2. It was his first mount after missing the previous two racing days when another gate mishap injured his tailbone.
“It was a bad couple of days,” said Burdo. “He said he’s had horses act up on him a thousand times and these were just freaky things.”
The injury rules Marquez out for the rest of the season at Gulfstream, but he and Burdo are targeting a return to Monmouth Park in New Jersey where Marquez finished fifth in the standings last summer.
“Monmouth will only race weekends at first in May,” said Burdo. “The Doc said about four weeks to heal, then a couple to get fit. With the weekends, I think we might miss only about 10 or 11 days and try and get back June 1st.”
Triple Sunday Puts Trujillo on 1,000 Milestone Watch
Jockey Elvis Trujillo rode three winners Sunday at Gulfstream Park and will bid to reach the 1,000 career victory mark in the final weeks of the meet. He heads into Wednesday’s card with 993, including 37 this season to rank seventh in the standings.
Jose Lezcano continues to lead and appears poised to capture his first Gulfstream riding title after finishing third last year behind Eibar Coa and John Velazquez. Kent Desormeaux remains in second with 48 wins, one more than Velazquez third with 47 and Julien Leparoux fourth at 45. Desormeaux, Velazquez and Leparoux shifted their headquarters to Keeneland last weekend.
Ken McPeek continues to lead the trainers’ standings with 29 victories, but Todd Pletcher is only two back at 27 and both have divisions competing here through closing day on Thurs., Apr. 23. Nick Zito has shipped out and ranks third with 21, followed by Wesley Ward and Peter Walder tied for fourth with 17 apiece.
Ward leads in another statistical category as the clear leader sending out 2-year-old winners at both Gulfstream and Keeneland. Over the last week, Ward has sent out the winners of the first two races carded for juvenile at both tracks and will bid to continue that remarkable streak in 2-year-olds races carded at both tracks on Thursday.
‘All Who Conga’ Returns in Friday Feature at Gulfstream
Dianne Waldron’s 3-year-old For All Who Conga, who showed considerable promise winning his career debut at Calder in mid-June and finished a game second in the Frank Gomez Memorial as a juvenile, returns to competition in Friday’s six-furlong allowance feature at Gulfstream Park.
Jockey Paco Lopez rides For All Who Conga for trainer Bill White in the colt’s first start since a game runner-up in the Frank Gomez on July 12, a race won by Red Nation with Sabi Sabi third A son of Congaree, For All Who Conga was well backed in both races last year.
A fresh player on the local scene also making his 3-year-old debut in Friday’s feature is Blazing Meadows Farm and partners’ Unsung Song with Jose Rivera II named to ride in the field of seven 3-year-olds. Trained by Tim Hamm, Unsung Song is a roan/gray colt by Unbridled’s Song purchased for $75,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sales.
Unsung Song makes his South Florida debut after three races last year at Presque Isle Downs and one at Saratoga. After a winning debut at Presque Isle, Unsung Song broke poorly in the Saratoga Special (G2) and showed speed for a half-mile before tiring to finish eighth. He makes his first start since finishing fifth in a stakes at Presque Isle on Sept. 27.
Completing the field for Friday’s race are Red Oak Stable’s Kissimmee Kyle, Holly Crest Farm’s Have One More, Alter Racing Stable’s Haps Alphabet Soup, D J Stable’s Clam Bake, and Henco Inc’s Frosty Diamond.
Lady Sprinter Close to South Florida Debut
Dama Group’s 5-year-old Kentucky-bred mare Lady Sprinter won eight of her first nine career starts in Argentina before arriving in California for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita last October. Now the daughter of Orientate is preparing for a fresh start this season in South Florida at Gulfstream Park.
“She worked a real smooth six furlongs here Sunday in 1:15,” said trainer Juan Riviriego later that afternoon. “She’s ready to run. She’s ready right now for a challenge. I wanted to run her a little sooner, but she was a little stressed, nervous when we arrived. She doesn’t like turf and didn’t do well on the synthetic track (Pro-Ride at Santa Anita).
“I’m going to take my chances at Calder and see were we fit in. I’ll be heading over there with all six (horses) and see what happens. I live and have family in Buenos Aires, so I can get to Argentina in eight hours, so traveling from Miami – as opposed to California – is a lot easier for me,” said the 63-year-old horseman.
Lady Sprinter’s only loss in Argentina came on turf. In her final start there she won a Group 1 sprint on May 3 before arriving at Santa Anita in the fall to prepare for the Breeders’ Cup. She trained well over the synthetic track there with several sharp workouts, but was never a threat while finishing ninth behind Ventura in the seven-furlong test.
In one more try at Santa Anita, Lady Sprinter finished last of seven in the Kalookan Queen Handicap on Dec. 31. Prior to the six-furlong breeze on Sunday, she drilled a ‘bullet’ half-mile in 46 2/5 over the Gulfstream surface on Mar. 26.