For the second straight year, an improving Graham Motion trainee upstaged the $1 million Manhattan S. (G1) on Belmont Stakes Day. In 2017, the 27-1 Ascend did the honors, and on Saturday, the 18-1 Spring Quality followed suit under Hall of Famer Edgar Prado.
A homebred for George Strawbridge Jr.’s Augustin Stable, Spring Quality scored his first graded victory in last November’s Red Smith (G3) at Aqueduct. The six-year-old gelding returned to action with a runner-up effort to Chad Brown’s unbeaten Chilean import Robert Bruce in the May 5 Fort Marcy (G3). The betting public overlooked Spring Quality in the rematch over an extra furlong that played to his strengths, and clear sailing in a messy race helped too.
Hi Happy and Hello Don Julio went forward through fractions of :24.08, :48.54, and 1:12.01 on the firm inner course. Beach Patrol, the 9-5 favorite, was perched in a stalking spot flanked even wider out by Manitoulin, while Robert Bruce was reserved further back and Spring Quality bided his time in the latter part of the field.
Turning for home after the mile in 1:34.95, Hello Don Julio briefly spurted away in upper stretch before the cavalry charge engulfed him. Hi Happy and Manitoulin stayed on, Sadler’s Joy closed to join them, but Spring Quality was finishing best of all on the outside. Up in time in the blanket finish, he mugged Sadler’s Joy in a sprightly 1:58.58 for 1 1/4 miles and paid $38.
Hi Happy held third narrowly from Manitoulin. Next came Fashion Business, Robert Bruce after scrimmaging, Hello Don Julio, Channel Maker, Multiplier, Catcho en Die, One Go All Go, Alexios Komnenos, and a tamely weakening Beach Patrol.
Spring Quality capped a Grade 1 double for hot young sire Quality Road, whose champion daughter Abel Tasman ran rough shod over the 1 1/16-mile Ogden Phipps (G1) on the main track. This new career high improved his resume to 11-6-3-0, with earnings of $860,797.
The Pennsylvania-bred served notice when capturing his debut as a juvenile at Keeneland in October 2014. But he missed his entire sophomore season, and after a comeback allowance score at Tampa Bay Downs in 2016, he headed to the sidelines again. Spring Quality needed a couple of starts to regain the winning thread in 2017, landing a Pimlico allowance and earning a stakes breakthrough in the restricted (off-the-turf) Robellino S. at Penn National. Just edged by the redoubtable Page McKenney in the Roanoke at Parx, Spring Quality switched to turf in last October’s Knickerbocker (G2), rallying for fourth off a slow pace. He’s gone on to win two of his next three.
Spring Quality is a half-brother to multiple Grade 3 winner Holiday Star. Their dam, the Deputy Minister mare Spring Star, is herself a daughter of multiple Grade 2 queen Alice Springs. Spring Quality’s third dam, First Approach, garnered the 1983 Flower Bowl (G1).