Would Quality Road have beaten Zenyatta in 2009 Classic?

Speculation is always fun when debating what would have happened if one great Super Bowl champion from the ’70s had played another from the ’90s, if a heavyweight champion from one era had fought another from a different time period and if a talented race horse that was scratched at the gate of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic would have found a way to do something 11 other males couldn’t do that day — beat Zenyatta.

How about it? If Quality Road, a winner of 7 of 10 lifetime starts and an ultra-impressive winner of this year’s Donn Handicap and Met Mile, had not been scratched from the Classic last November at Santa Anita, would he have beaten the great Zenyatta, thus depriving the exceptional mare of her place in history as the only female to win the Classic?

The question was put to Todd Pletcher, trainer of Quality Road, this week as his talented colt prepared to meet five rivals in the $750,000 Whitney Invitational at Saratoga on Saturday.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I certainly think that he’s a horse that is good enough to do just about anything, as he’s proven in the Donn, the Met Mile and setting track records in the Florida Derby and the Amsterdam. I mean, he’s an extremely gifted animal.

“I just don’t know with the synthetic surface (how he would have run). It’s a special surface that some horses handle and some don’t, and from our experience with it, you really don’t know until you run on it. So it’s impossible to know (if he would have won), but I do know that he is talented enough to compete with anyone.”

It’s my opinion that Zenyatta would have charged past Quality Road in the stretch last fall as she did Gio Ponti, Summer Bird, Einstein and Colonel John, among others. She was by far the best horse in America last year — male or female — on Breeders’ Cup day.

Now, if the two of them meet this year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6, it’s a whole different ballgame. Quality Road is a year older, bigger and more mature. He’s a better race horse now than he was last November. That’s pretty apparent when you watch him run.

Is Zenyatta a better horse in 2010 than she was last fall? The jury is still out on that one because she’s 6 now and it’s impossible to tell how much this year’s campaign will have weighed on her come November.

If I had to pick a winner today, I’d go with the unbeaten horse who’s proven at 1 1/4 miles and who would be running over a preferred surface — dirt — as opposed to a synthetic surface that she doesn’t like but has managed to stay unbeaten over.

If they meet, it will be a heck of a horse race and likely will decide Horse of the Year laurels.

8 thoughts on “Would Quality Road have beaten Zenyatta in 2009 Classic?

  1. Being the idiot that I am, I said Zenyatta had no chance to win the Classic. Not only that, but Quality Road was my top pick.

    That race couldn’t have gone much worse for me….

  2. Ryan, don’t be too hard on yourself. I too didn’t pick Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I doubt we’ll ever get 5/2 on her again

  3. Ryan,

    Quality Road scratched, no? So you didn’t lose any money, right? Last thing I told my dad before the BC Classic was “there’s no way a female can circle the field and beat males.” Thank you very much.

  4. I don’t think there was a horse in training on the planet who could have taken Zenyatta down in the Classic that day. She was just too much horse.

  5. Zenyatta is proven at 1 1/4 miles and better on dirt. Her campaign this year shouldn’t have taken much out of her (our loss!). Today she’s the pick.

    Blame & Lucky will get the distance on dirt. QR still has distance questions. Slowing him on the lead in the Whitney didn’t produce a closing kick. But he ran a good race, barely got beat – at good old 9f. RA is doubtful – let’s see what she does in the Personal Ensign at 10f. In her last against lesser at 9f RA and Borel had a strategy that would work at 10f. Awful heat. So wait and see.

    Other – you never know. Top ranked middle distance Euro injured plus it’s on dirt.

  6. The crawling pace allowed Blame to remain within easy striking distance, which was the pivotal mistake. Quality Road should have distanced himself early on,the rider choose not to,and it cost him the victory.Pletcher is the greatest trainer on the planet and it won’t happen again.

  7. Zenyatta is not proven on dirt and she’s not proven at 1 1/4. Two races on dirt and one at 1 1/4 does not make her proven at either. Put her on dirt against monsters like Quality Road at 1 1/4 and we’ll see why she’s been hiding out on synthetics and away from males.

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