By Jack Werk
Quality Road’s absolutely monster performance in the G1 Donn Handicap Saturday at Gulfstream Park was one of the most visually amazing races I’ve seen in a while! I guess the boys at the Beyer Speed Figure ratings thought so too because he got a huge 121 for the performance. Did I mention that it was a track-record performance? Quality Road covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47 2/5 to win by almost 13 lengths! Did you know that the track record he broke was his own, set last year in the G1 Florida Derby? Of course, you know that his sire is Darley’s Elusive Quality, a son of Gone West who keeps coming up with “big” horses!
Elusive Quality is a 17-year-old stallion and is a “made man” as a sire. By this, I mean that he’s a certified proven sire, and in these days he’s the type of sire that will attract plenty of interest because of his proven ability. As I mentioned, he’s by Gone West and out of the mare Touch of Greatness, by Hero’s Honor. Believe it or not, Elusive Quality was not a Grade 1 winner himself, and both his stakes wins came on turf! He won 9 of 20 starts and won two G3s on turf as a 5-year-old! He was placed in two G2 sprints on dirt, but with this type of race record, it’s not surprising that he went to stud for only $10,000 live foal, even with the great family that he has. In 2010, he stands for $75,000 live foal – a measure of his success and something that I take great pride in because I picked him as the No. 1 sire prospect of his year!
The main thing he had going for himself was his sire, I’m convinced. Gone West (Mr. Prospector) is a flat out sire of sires, and Elusive Quality is his best son at stud, but there are many others, too. They include the up-and-coming Speightstown, the very promising Proud Citizen, the proven Mr. Greeley and Grand Slam, the European sire Zamindar, the late Zafonic, and Western Winter – one of the leading sires in South Africa.
To date, Elusive Quality has sired 55 SWs, including many top dirt runners. He’s best known as the sire of G1 Derby and G1 Preakness hero Smarty Jones, but his other leading runners include the European-raced G1 winner Raven’s Pass, who came here and won the Breeders’ Cup Classic from a field that included Curlin in 2008; European G1 winner Elusive City, who’s turning into a promising sire in Europe; G1-winning US dirt filly Maryfield; and Australian G1-winning filly Camarilla. As you can see, he’s had G1 winners on dirt, turf, and synthetics – the true hallmark of a high-class stallion in the US.
Although Smarty Jones and Raven’s Pass won at 1¼ miles on dirt and synthetics in G1 company, many of Elusive Quality’s runners, including G2, G3, and Listed race winners, are known for their sprinting speed on dirt, turf, and synthetics and are “shorter” versions of Quality Road – speed horses that don’t stay farther than a mile. For this reason, he’s been really successful in the US, because of dirt and synthetics. When he shuttled to Australia, he wasn’t as successful, because he didn’t have the variety of surfaces that show him off best. He also probably didn’t get the mares that suited him best, either.
For the 2009 Southern Hemisphere season, Elusive Quality was sent to Brazil, so he has another shot to make his mark in the SH – in another environment.
But, let’s face it. He’s at his best here, where horses like Quality Road can flash their dirt speed to best effect. Based on what we saw in Quality Road this weekend, he’s going to continue to keep his sire at the top of the charts and in the news!