Like the 13 other New York-based horses entered in races on Laurel Park’s Winter Carnival card a week ago, Quezon stayed in her stall due to an equine herpes virus case at Belmont Park.
The quarantine kept her from contesting the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Stakes in what was likely her final lifetime start. The New York-bred would have been one of the favorites in the $300,000 race won in the snow by Ms Locust Point after six horses were scratched off the program. The outcome didn’t surprise Quezon’s trainer Bob Ribaudo, who knew the Parx-based runner was a major player.
“It’s not like a bad horse won it, that’s a nice filly and she would have been tough to beat,” the trainer said. “When the entries came out, we were happy that there was going to be some early speed to maybe go with her before the scratches. I think Danny Gargan’s filly (Divine Miss Grey) was going to go with her and that would have helped us.”
Sent off at 3-5, Ms Locust Point led at every call and won by 4 1/2 lengths on a snowy, wet, raw day. Quezon, Divine Miss Grey, Boule, Bishop’s Pond and Highway Star stayed dry, ate hay and caught up on sleep. If they fretted about a missed opportunity, they didn’t tell.
“In the end, there was nothing we did or could have done,” said Ribaudo, who purchased his stable star for owner Marc Keller as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton’s 2013 sale of New York-bred yearlings in Saratoga. “She didn’t get to run, but she’s fine. It’s a shame. That kind of thing happens.”
For Quezon, the Fritchie was probably her last chance to win a graded stakes (she placed in three) as she has a date with 2017 Horse of the Year and sought-after stallion Gun Runner. The future broodmare might get one more chance to add to her $754,200 bankroll however as Ribaudo is contemplating two New York options and even a remote chance of shipping to Florida. At home, she could run in Aqueduct’s Heavenly Prize Invitational March 10 or the Correction March 17.
“Neither is ideal but the plan is to run in one of them,” said Ribaudo. “The Heavenly Prize at a mile is an invitational that (stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes) invited us to. The mile is the thing, but she can do it. It’s not graded. I wish it was. Then there’s the Correction at three-quarters. That’s not ideal (distance-wise) either but, again, she can do it.”
Quezon is best at 7 furlongs (3-for-4) or 6 1/2 (never worse than third in eight tries), and Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2 Inside Information would be a good spot at 7 furlongs March 17. Except it’s in Florida, and the quarantine situation creates some flux.
“I don’t think that’s fair to her,” Ribaudo said. “You’d have to ship from cold to hot and either way it’s her last race before she’s going to be bred. I don’t think we’d do that.”
Bred by Apache Farm, the daughter of Tiz Wonderful and the Olympio mare Kalookan Dancer has won seven of 18 lifetime starts and won stakes at 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. She will get one more chance to shine and showed her readiness with a half-mile breeze in :48.12 over the Belmont training track Wednesday.
“She’s doing great, I’m happy with her,” said Ribaudo. “She’s done all we’ve ever asked.”
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The quarantine, put in place when a horse in trainer Tom Albertrani’s barn was euthanized after developing the neurologic strain of the respiratory virus, can’t be lifted until horses in that barn test negative for the virus after 21 days.