Edward P. Evans 3-year-old Virginia homebred Quality Road turned back challengers at the head of the stretch in Saturday’s $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park and drew off to win by 1 ¾ lengths over Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s even-money favorite Dunkirk in the historic South Florida Kentucky Derby (G1) preview.

Ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, Quality Road was a strong second choice after winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) last out on Feb. 28 and punched his ticket to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 2 as he paid $4.40 to win in his first start around two turns. The Virginia-bred son of Elusive Quality set a track record for the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track.

Samotowka Stable and partners’ Theregoesjojo finished third in the field of seven, six lengths behind Dunkirk and 2½ lengths ahead of New Life Stable’s Stately Character in fourth. Jockey Kent Desormeaux lodged a claim of foul against the winner for alleged interference in the upper stretch, but the claim was not allowed

Winning Jockey Quote

John R. Velazquez:

“I was just biding my time. He relaxed. I didn’t have to wrestle him going into the backside. You’re never 100 per cent confident going there (Churchill Downs). I didn’t really think it was a lot (objection). He got close to me, but never passed me.”

Winning Trainer Quote

Jimmy Jerkens:

“Today’s effort was terrific. He sat nice for John (Velazquez), didn’t give him any trouble, and rated. When we went by the pacesetter (Casey’s On Call), John gave him a breather. That was the whole thing. He didn’t open up. He had a lot left to deal with Dunkirk. As for the objection, it didn’t look like much. The other horse (Theregoesjojo) fell out of there so quick. I’ll probable stay here (Palm Meadows) and then go directly to Churcvhill Downs. We won; race again (until Derby). It’s only five weeks. When he goes to stud, they look for a lot of speed, and he has that (referring to track record).”

Todd Pletcher (Dunkirk, 2nd) – “Quality Road ran a big race. He’s (Dunkirk) made huge strides. We’ll stick to the plan (go to Kentucky Derby). If he gets in, fine. If not, we’ll concentrate on big races down the line. He fell back just a touch more than I would have hoped, but he made a huge move in the final 16th..”

Ken McPeek (Theregoesjojo, 3rd) – “He was up a little closer than usual, but you have to give the winner full credit. He’s a top horse and ran a great race.”


23:49, 46:83, 1:10:66, 1:35:28 & 1:47:72