OZONE PARK, NY- Godolphin’s Speaker’s Corner has kicked off his 4-year-old campaign the right way with two graded stakes victories at Gulfstream Park. But he’ll have his work cut out for him when contesting a salty group of older horses in Saturday’s seven-furlong Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Speaker’s Corner enters off a pair of wins going a one-turn mile. Following a gate-to-wire triumph in the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper on January 29, the bay son of Street Sense displayed frontrunning tactics once more in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile on March 5. In both starts, he defeated Fearless, who came back to win the Grade 3 Ghostzapper at the South Florida oval by six lengths.
Speaker’s Corner, who will exit the outermost post 8 under Junior Alvarado, will have to pass a rigorous test in the Carter, where all but one of the entrants will arrive off a victory. The field includes last out stakes winners Green Light Go, Mind Control, Bank On Shea and Drafted, as well as First Captain and Reinvestment Risk whose recent coups came at allowance level.
“They don’t give Grade 1s away,” said Godolphin bloodstock director Michael Banahan. “It’ll be a challenge. He’s dropping back in distance, and he has the widest draw in the field. But we’re happy with him. He’s in great shape and he had a great work down at Payson Park last week. We’re excited to have him there and looking forward to seeing if he can step up to the Grade 1 level.”
The Carter will be a second start at Grade 1 level for Speaker’s Corner. A sharp triumph in his sophomore debut in August at Saratoga Race Course prompted his connections to try the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby, where he finished a distant sixth in his two-turn debut. He cut back to one turn for a 1 1/16-mile second-level optional claimer at Belmont, winning by 6 3/4 lengths and registering a career-best 109 Beyer Speed Figure – one of five triple digit numbers recorded by the talented colt.
His following effort in the two-turn Discovery at Aqueduct, where he finished a pacesetting second, encouraged his connections to stick to one-turn races for his 4-year-old campaign.
Banahan said it’s possible Speaker’s Corner could be in close stalking range, as he was in his maiden victory in October 2020 and his triumph against winners at Saratoga the following August.
“When you drop back in distance, maybe things will be a little different than what he had to do his last couple of races,” Banahan said. “He could drop back in behind a few horses. Junior has confidence in the horse, he’s ridden him more times than anyone else. We’ll just have to see what happens and where the speed comes from. He should be fine, but Junior will have to play the break.”
Godolphin also will be represented by Mott-trained Nostalgic in the Grade 3, $300,000 Gazelle, the final local qualifier for the Kentucky Oaks.
The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro finished fourth in the Grade 2 Demoiselle in December at Aqueduct after a 7 3/4-length maiden victory at Belmont, where she registered a 48 Beyer.
Banahan said he was not discouraged by the effort.
“We were perplexed by that number, but I’m more visual than number driven,” Banahan said. “When we ran her back in the Demoiselle, she ran OK and finished up OK, but she was a little too far out of it. She maybe needed to be a little closer to the pace that day.”
Nostalgic breezed once over the turf while wintering at Payson Park in Florida, subsequently finishing ninth in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant on February 5 over the Gulfstream Park green. She found the winner’s circle next out when beating winners over the Gulfstream main track by 6 3/4 lengths.
“She worked well on the grass but was disappointing in the Sweetest Chant. She showed us she didn’t like the turf, even if she worked well over it,” Banahan said. “I do think she likes the distance and we like our spot in here.”
Nostalgic will be ridden by Jose Ortiz, the pilot in both of her wins, from post 3. On Sunday, Godolphin has entered Frost Point for her stakes debut in the $100,000 Top Flight Invitational.
The 4-year-old daughter of Frosted, out of Grade 1-winner Balletto, defeated winners at Laurel Park in her 2022 debut before finishing second in an allowance optional claimer at Aqueduct in February for Mott.
“Balletto was a nice filly. She’s produced a nice horse in Villanesca who was Grade 1-placed,” Banahan said. “This filly has continued to improve in her races and we’re looking forward to stretching her out. We’re hoping she can get a stakes placing, that’s our first goal with her for the year.”
Manny Franco will pilot Frost Point for the first time from post 3 in the six-horse field.
NYRA Press Release
Photo: NYRA Photo