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The Good, The Weird and the Very Ugly

Quality Road

Quality Road breaks his own record

With Santa Anita’s card rained out over the weekend, the 3-year-olds in New York received a bit more of the spotlight than they might have under normal circumstances – and normal circumstances were certainly not the order of the day there, either.

What should have been a reasonably straightforward running of the Whirlaway, featuring speedy Eightyfiveinafifty and not much else, turned into its own mini-saga when things went a bit peculiar with Eightyfiveinafifty.  His bit snapped on the first turn, and Jorge Chavez tried in vain to pull him up – minus Chavez, the horse was eventually caught heading for the barn – luckily with only minor injuries. Brooklyn Backstretch features a great rundown of how the story developed, and it seems we’ll see the horse back in the near future – although trainer Gary Contessa knows there’s some mental work to do now:

“He could (make the Derby) but he really has to play catch-up now, “Contessa said.  “I have to make sure he is mentally perfect. We have to get what happened to him Saturday behind him. We expected greatness with him, and, to have it blow up like this, it has taken its toll on me.  It’s only me that has to work him through this and I will.”

But mental quirks can certainly be overcome – Quality Road provided ample evidence of that on Saturday in the Donn Handicap.  With his physical problems behind him, the only question remaining was which Quality Road would turn up – the head case, or the professional.  But a description of ’emphatically professional’ only hints at Quality Road’s performance; his 121 Beyer says a bit more.  Granted, the competition was not top-flight, and the track record he broke was his own, but it was a tremendous effort nonetheless.  I would still like to see him take on some of the world’s best milers to see what he is truly capable of, but it certainly suggested that we have an exciting season to look forward to.

While all signs indicate that Summer Bird will be a part of that season, he will not be racing under the care of Tim Ice – owners Drs. Jayaramans have removed their horses from his barn and Summer Bird will be heading to another Tim – Ritchey, of Afleet Alex fame.  Ice is left with only six horses in the barn as a result of the move.  There is no word yet on whether Ritchey will also be inheriting their Triple Crown nominees, including Indy Squall – a half-brother to Summer Bird.  While none of us are privy to what went on behind the scenes, one hopes things turn out well for Ice.

Things apparently did not turn out well for Thorn Song; his name has turned up in the ongoing legal wrangling between Fifth Third Bank and Ahmed Zayat, and in a particularly unpleasant way.  You may recall that he was pulled up in the oddly-run Eddie Read Handicap last July – the race was eventually won by Global Hunter, with Awesome Gem a close second (and Richard’s Kid, winner of the San Antonio over the weekend, was the last to finish); Thorn Song bolted to the outside (video), but at the time, the only comment on his well-being was the following:

Trainer Mike Mitchell was at a loss to explain Thorn Song’s antics. “He just bolted,” he said. “He was where I wanted him to be. I opened up the blinkers and maybe he needs them closed more. That’s all I can think of.”

It seems things took a sinister turn; about two weeks later, it was reported that Thorn Song had abscesses in both front feet, and that the Breeders’ Cup Mile was probably not in the cards for the grey horse:

Trainer Mike Mitchell said at the time that Thorn Song, the son of Unbridled’s Song, was unlikely to make the Breeders’ Cup, where he had been a leading contender for the Mile. “It’s a small chance,” Mitchell told the Form.

It appears that the horse might have already been dead.

It is, indeed, a complicated chain of events; Mitchell’s comments were published in the DRF on August 13th, but North American Specialty Insurance’s records indicated that Thorn Song died on August 2nd – although the $2.75 million check was not paid out to Zayat Stables until October 19th.  As far as the court case goes, Fifth Third wants to know why Zayat hid the payment he received; obviously as racing fans, we’d like to know what happened to Thorn Song, and why it was kept quiet.  Presumably the insurance company and the Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic documented what actually took place – but it’s an ugly story, regardless of the angle. If nothing else, perhaps the spotlight will keep Thorn Song’s stablemates safe – and one hopes the investigations will continue.

It would be easy to end on that down note, but we’ll brighten things up before departing for the day – Zarkava had her first foal over the weekend, and reports are that both mare and filly are doing well.  Zarkava is to be bred to fellow Arc winner Sea the Stars next time around; that should be something to look forward to a few years down the line.

Update: The Thorn Song story gets weirder and weirder – is he still with us?

1 comment to The Good, The Weird and the Very Ugly

  • Good investigative work finding all of these scattered comments. When that bank claimed Zayat’s horse were in danger everyone thought that this was a scare tactic. It turns out that it was true. Could Zayat be a reincarnation of J.T. Lundy? Who is better off; one of Frank Purdue’s chickens or one of Zayat’s steeds?

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