Monday, April 27, 2009

Quality Road's Derby Withdrawal: What Did Others Do?

by Fran Jurga | 27 April 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

For better or worse, quarter cracks have altered the course of horse racing history. Fortunes have been won and lost because of them. Many top breeding stallions have been plagued by them, and their progeny repeat their sires' painful steps. 

This quarter crack on a horse about to undergo treatment at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine is atypical in that it affects the lateral ("outside") hoof wall of a horse instead of the medial ("inside") wall. Trace the crack to the coronet and you will see that it follows a line of general stress that is not exactly parallel with the hoof angle. 

While most people focus on the larger part of the crack, toward the ground surface as it widens, the area of focus for judging the success of any  treatment will be the barely visible origin of the crack at the hairline. 

Florida Derby winner Quality Road sported a new patch on his new quarter crack when he galloped on Sunday, and plans called for a serious work today (Monday) at his home track of Belmont Park in New York before shipping to Louisville for Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

He stayed in his stall this morning: not a good sign.

Quarter crack specialist Ian McKinlay called on Sunday to say that he was disappointed that the crack's location, right at the hairline, meant that when he inserted the drain and tightened the sutures before applying the patch, there was a tiny drop of blood at the hairline.

“This is live tissue – we’re not changing a flat tire, so there are a lot of judgment calls," McKinlay told The Hoof Blog by phone. “Everything had been stabilized and when I changed the wires today, the crack opened up. There was a bit of sensitive tissue aggravated during the process. Hopefully, there won’t be a tinge of blood tomorrow (Monday) when he breezes.”

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said Sunday that he was planning to treat the hoof with “Thrush Buster” as a drying agent and also with Animalintex poultice. “He’s got 24 hours to get better,” said Jerkens on Sunday. “I would have liked to have seen no blood, but it didn’t surprise me because he was still tender. He’s sound, he galloped the way he usually does, but I would have been more optimistic without blood.”

When Monday rolled around, the stall door did not open wide. No big colt came striding out.

Before you write this colt off, read your history. Today's leading sire A. P. Indy sat out both the 1992 Kentucky Derby and Preakness while recovering from a quarter crack, which popped the day before the Derby, and came back to win the much longer Belmont Stakes and Breeders Cup before entering stud.

And who could forget another leading sire, Unbridled's Song, whose owner (the now infamous Ernie Paragallo, currently accused of neglecting almost 200 horses on his farm in upstate New York), sent his colt to the post in the 1996 Kentucky Derby in spite of a quarter crack and bar shoe, only to have him finish fifth. Unbridled's Song missed the Preakness and the Belmont.

And don't forget one of the most underrated racehorses in American history: the great three-year-old campaign of Buckpasser, who won 14 stakes races with a gaping quarter crack that was often unpatched.

The crack did keep him out of the Triple Crown, but he came back to win the Travers...and everything else. I think he won something like 14 stakes races in quick succession, within a year, in spite of his re-cracking hoof. His jockey, Braulio Baeza, said he ran on his heart, not his hooves.

Buckpasser's three-year-old quarter crack was infected; the Phipps Stable brought in Standardbred quarter crack expert Joe Grasso to patch him and the crack recurred when he was four.

Buckpasser is one of the most interesting horses, hoof-wise, in recent American history. The Phipps Stables is said to have tested experimental European raceplates on him. He retired with a record of 31-25-4-1. That's right: he started 31 times in three years, almost all of which were stakes races.

In 1964, Northern Dancer (who looms in Quality Road's pedigree) won the Flamingo and Florida Derby prep races, as well as the Derby, while recovering from a quarter crack, but the crack would have been quite grown out by the Derby. Northern Dancer wore the vulcanized patch by Bill Bane at Santa Anita.

Just to muddy this whole situation, a horse can have a quarter crack, a Quarter Crack, or a QUARTER CRACK. It sounds like Quality Road has a quarter crack, but it is in a very sensitive spot, and his decisionmakers aren't taking any chances.

That translates to one less reason to hold your breath for two minutes on Saturday.

And that's ok.

Read The Hoof Blog's 2008 article on the history of quarter crack patches and horses who benefited from them.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to