Quality Road Latest Derby Favorite To Get Injured

Quality Road was expected to be made the morning line favorite (or close to it) for the 135th Kentucky Derby, but now he is out with a cracked hoof.

“There was some tenderness in the foot this morning and he’s not 100%. (Trainer) Jimmy (Jerkens) wasn’t comfortable breezing him, and without a work, he can’t go,” Baker said. “He’s not going to make the race.”

Quality Road, a homebred son of Elusive Quality, has been battling a second quarter crack for the last few days. He returned from a mile and three-quarter gallop on the Belmont Park training track April 26 with a tinge of blood from the newly-patched quarter crack.

A couple months ago, Old Fashioned was considered the horse to beat in the Derby, but then he suffered a broken knee and is now retired to stud. Beethoven looked very promising then had to pull out of the Florida Derby (and subsequently the Kentucky Derby) with a “slight” leg injury. The Pamplemousse looked very impressive out at Santa Anita, then he had to pull off the Derby trail with an injury. Point Encounter also was impressive out West but had a soft tissue injury that knocked him off the trail.

All of this, one year after Eight Bells had to be put down on the track at the 2008 Kentucky Derby after a horrifying injury.

This has become a frightening trend in horse racing that shows no sign of abating soon. Some tracks nationwide have switched to the “softer” synthetic tracks to reduce injuries and deaths to thoroughbreds but there are conflicting results on how well that works.

The tracks aren’t the problem, anyway, it’s the breeding of frail horses. Fifty years ago the money in thoroughbred ownership was in the purses for winning races, so you wanted a horse that was not only fast but could last until he was six or seven (or older) on the track.

Today, the money is in stud fees — a $100 million for a Derby winner, give or take. So owners are breeding for horses that can run fast young then get to stud before he is four. That results in precocious, frail horses more prone to break down.

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So this year you get Quality Road and Old Fashioned, and next year another horse will take their place. Let’s just hope nobody takes Eight Bells place.

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