Speaker’s Corner headlines G1 Carter Handicap

April 6, 2022

OZONE PARK, N.Y. — Godolphin homebred Speaker’s Corner will look to continue a dominant start to his 4-year-old campaign in trying to parlay consecutive graded stakes victories at one mile when returning to sprinting as part of a talented field in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets for 4-year-olds and up contesting seven furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The 122nd running of the prestigious Carter, first run in 1895 and famously carrying the distinction as the only American stakes race to feature a triple dead heat for victory with Brownie, Bossuet and Wait A Bit hitting the wire simultaneously in 1944, is one of six races on the stacked Saturday docket.

The 11-race card, with a first post of 12:50 p.m. Eastern, is headlined by the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles in a contest offering 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers. The stakes-laden card also features the Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies also going nine furlongs with 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks points on the line; the Grade 3, $200,000 Bay Shore for sophomores sprinting seven furlongs; the Grade 3, $150,000 Distaff Handicap for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs; and the day’s lone turf stakes with the $100,000 Danger’s Hour for 4-year-olds and up at one mile.

Speaker’s Corner, conditioned by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, earned an eye-opening 109 Beyer Speed Figure for his 6 3/4-length romp against optional claimers going 1 1/16 miles in October over Belmont Park’s Big Sandy and capped his sophomore year with a strong second, a half-length back to Miles D, in the two-turn 1 1/8-mile Discovery in November to mark his debut at the Big A.

That effort represented his best finish in a stake at the time, besting a sixth-place finish against top-flight competition in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby in September at Parx.

The Street Sense colt started 2022 even better than the previous campaign, registering a 102 figure for his 1 1/4-length gate-to-wire win in the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper in January at Gulfstream Park. He tallied triple digits for a fourth consecutive start for his 5 1/2-length triumph over the same track in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile on March 5, garnering a 106.

“He showed plenty last year. We tried stretching him out, but it wasn’t really what he wanted to do,” said Godolphin bloodstock director Michael Banahan. “We got him back out to one-turn miles and he was impressive in both of those. That’s [one-turn contests] what it looks like he wants to do.”

Jockey Junior Alvarado, aboard for Speaker’s Corner’s last four starts, will have the return assignment from the outermost post 8 with his charge carrying the highweight of 124 pounds.

Stronach Stables’ Green Light Go will try to capitalize on the opportunity to live up to his name, cutting back to sprinting following a pair of victories going a one-turn mile at Aqueduct. After being forwardly placed before cruising to a nine-length win against optional claimers in January, jockey Dylan Davis sent the 5-year-old son of Hard Spun to the front in the Stymie on February 26 in a 3 1/4-length victory.

With the starting gate for the Carter not abutting Conduit Avenue like the one-mile race requires, trainer Jimmy Jerkens said the strategy might shift, with his second-place finish in the six-furlong Grade 3 Fall Highweight on November 21 as a guide. In that contest, Green Light Go tracked in fifth position through the opening half-mile before rallying to finish a head back to Hopeful Treasure.

“He showed easy speed going a mile, but against better horses at a shorter distance, he might be forced to stalk a little bit,” Jerkens said.

Davis will have the call again with Green Light Go carrying 121 pounds in breaking from post 2.

Klaravich Stables’ Reinvestment Risk will make his first stakes appearance since capping his 2-year-old year with a 10th-place finish in the 2020 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. The Chad Brown trainee burst onto the scene with a pair of Grade 1 runner-up finishes in his first three career starts, both times running second to Jackie’s Warrior in both the Hopeful in September 2020 at Saratoga Race Course and following in the Champagne the next month at Belmont before his off-the-board Breeders’ Cup performance.

The son of Upstart made just one start in his 3-year-old year, running third against allowance company in June, and returned off a subsequent seven-month layoff to best optional claimers in February at Gulfstream. After earning a 103 Beyer for that effort, Brown weighed the Carter and the Grade 3 Commonwealth at Keeneland as the possible next start before deciding to ship Reinvestment Risk to Ozone Park.

“He didn’t exit his race last year in good shape, so he went to the sidelines,” Brown said. “This year, he came out of it in good shape and ran much better.”

Reinvestment Risk, carrying 117 pounds, will have Manny Franco in the irons from the inside post.

Graded stakes-winner First Captain, fresh off a win over optional claimers in February at Gulfstream, will make his first Aqueduct appearance as Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey seeks his second Carter victory and first since Dancing Spree in 1990.

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Siena Farm, Bobby Flay and Woodford Racing, the 4-year-old Curlin colt won his stakes bow in the Grade 3 Dwyer in July at Belmont before running third in the stakes named for his sire in July at the Spa. That effort in the Curlin was his last race of the year, with First Captain returning to the track to earn an 88 Beyer in his first race in seven months.

A $1.5 million purchase at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale, First Captain will carry 120 pounds with Jose Ortiz retaining the mount from post 5.

Off a six-month layoff, Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stable’s Mind Control will make his long-awaited 6-year-old debut for Hall of Fame trainer and three-time Carter-winner Todd Pletcher.

Mind Control was a winner last out, capturing the Parx Dirt Mile in September to earn a 104 Beyer in cracking triple digits for the first time in 23 career starts. Originally targeting a spot in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Del Mar, Mind Control was forced to missed the $2 million race after running a fever.

Bolstered by a long respite, Mind Control will now be making his third career appearance in the Carter after running sixth in the 2020 edition that was contested at Belmont and second – 5 1/2 lengths back to Mischevious Alex, in last year’s edition that returned to its customary spot at the Big A.

“We loved the way he ran at Parx and unfortunately he didn’t get to run in the Breeders’ Cup,” Pletcher said. “He shipped out to California but spiked a temperature so that was the end of the year for him.

“He wintered really well and got some time off at Red Oak and came in looking super,” Pletcher added. “He’s training consistently like he always does. He’s a happy horse and trains well and traditionally runs well fresh. We’re looking for him to pick up where he left off.”

Pletcher said added distance could be in Mind Control’s future later in the year.

“I think he’s very versatile,” Pletcher said. “We’ll see how things go in here but we might give him an opportunity to stretch out at some point this year.”

Joel Rosario will ride from post 4 with Mind Control carrying 123 pounds.

Drafted, who has won group or graded stakes in two continents, earned the opportunity to take a step up in class following a 4 1/2-length win in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Toboggan in February at the Big A for trainer David Duggan.

The 8-year-old is coming off a race in which he set a personal-best 97 Beyer, and his conditioner said he is intrigued if a near decade’s worth of racing experience can help overcome the challenge of talented younger opposition.

“You could make a case for five horses in there. We’re taking a shot at some young guns,” Duggan said. “He’s proven the last time that with the right conditions, he can be competitive. If everything sets up, we’ll be making sure he’ll be legitimate.”

Drafted, owned by Dublin Fjord Stables, Racepoint Stables, Kevin Hilbert and Thomas O’Keefe, will have a rider change with Kendrick Carmouche on the bridle, as Ortiz rides First Captain.

Drafted, who will carry 118 pounds from post 7 on Saturday, captured the 2019 Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal at Meydan Racecourse.

“Whether he’s good enough at eight, it’s hard to know,” Duggan added. “But he’s doing good. We’ll take a good swing at it. I’m quite happy with Kendrick on there. All we want is a good showing.”

Shea D Boy’s Stable’s Bank On Shea, winner of the six-furlong Pelican in February at Tampa Bay. Bred in New York by Dr. Scott Pierce, the 5-year-old Bank On Shea is 5-1-1 in eight career starts with three stakes wins. The Carlos David trainee will carry 118 pounds as Trevor McCarthy will be aboard in breaking from post 3.

Rounding out the field is Trin-Brook Stables’ War Tocsin, trained by Uriah St. Lewis, was second last out in the Grade 3 General George in February at Laurel Park. War Tocsin, carrying 116 pounds, will have Dexter Haddock ride from post 6.

The Grade 1 Carter Handicap is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 11-race card.

America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the spring meet at Aqueduct Racetrack on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.

Nyra Press Office

Photo: Speaker’s Corner (NYRA Photo)

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