OZONE PARK, N.Y. — Making his first appearance in a Grade 1 event since a distant sixth-place finish in last year’s Pennsylvania Derby, a streaking Speaker’s Corner left no doubt that he is truly Grade 1 caliber in Saturday’s $300,000 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct Racetrack.
A Godolphin homebred trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Speaker’s Corner was always cut out to be a good one. He made only two starts as a juvenile in 2020, including a maiden win at Belmont Park, and wasn’t seen again until the middle of his 3-year-old season when he stamped himself as a real talent with a 5 ¼-length allowance win sprinting seven furlongs at Saratoga Race Course that garnered a 101 Beyer Speed Figure.
His ambitious placement next out in the nine-furlong Pennsylvania Derby resulted in a career-worst finish, but he quickly got back on track with an optional claiming victory at Belmont before closing out the year with a runner-up finish in the nine-furlong Discovery at the Big A.
“We thought he was talented as a 2-year-old,” said Mott. “He had some little issues that we had to give him time for and then we had to give him more time than what we wanted to, but right now it looks like it’s turned out well. That was a prime target [winning a Grade 1]. That was the goal.”
Continuing his good run of form into 2022, the son of Street Sense won a pair of one-turn mile graded stakes races at Gulfstream Park to begin his 4-year-old campaign and drew well in the Carter, making his return to the Grade 1 ranks on Saturday even more auspicious.
Breaking from outermost post 8 with regular rider Junior Alvarado aboard, Speaker’s Corner was able to sit in the clear in second as Reinvestment Risk was hustled through on the rail to gain control of the lead down the backstretch.
After an opening quarter-mile in a leisurely 23.17 seconds over the fast main track, Speaker’s Corner and Alvarado weren’t content to let Reinvestment Risk gallop along on the front end and quickly took command of the race before hitting the half in 46.11. That early move proved to be decisive as Speaker’s Corner stormed into the stretch and rolled home an easy 4 ½-length winner, finishing strongly to complete the seven furlongs in a sparkling 1:21.34.
“He is a horse who we have always been very high on,” said Alvarado. “We figured out what he wants to do. He’s a very good miler. Today, we had a great trip, and he was there the whole way around. He was very much the best horse. He took the lead around the half-mile pole and after that, he was just doing his thing. He ran them off their feet early. He was traveling comfortably and was faster than the other horses. He gave me the same kick at seven-eighths as a mile. He’s on his “A” game right now. He’ll be a tough horse this year.”
The win was the third in a row for Speaker’s Corner, who is 6-for-9 overall with earnings that now stand at $572,130. He returned $3.50 on a $2 win wager as the prohibitive favorite.
Trained by Chad Brown for Klaravich Stables, Reinvestment Risk enjoyed some redemption of his own with a respectable second-place finish. A brilliant juvenile in 2020, the Upstart colt suffered a lost sophomore campaign as he made just one start in 2021, a distant third-place finish in an allowance race at Belmont. He signaled in his 2022 return — a facile score in an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park on February 26 — that he was ready to rejoin stakes company, and the talented bay held up his end of the bargain as he finished 2 ½ lengths clear of a tough-luck Mind Control in third.
“I thought I was second-best today,” said Manny Franco, rider aboard Reinvestment Risk. “My horse ran really well. I just tried to find my spot there inside. I was in the right spot the whole way around. I was happy with the way he ran. He’s really nice. The winner is in his prime right now, but I think my horse will improve after this race.”
It was another 2 ¾ lengths back to Green Light Go in fourth, who was followed home by Drafted, Bank On Shea, and First Captain.
As for where we can expect to see budding superstar Speaker’s Corner next, it seems a possible date in the Grade 1, $1 million Hill n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day on June 11 is in the cards.
“We’ve got to put that on the list of things,” said Mott. “That would be a prime target. We’ve squeezed him pretty good the way it is. We’ve come back five weeks, four weeks, so he’s had his races fairly close together already.”
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with a nine-race card headlined by the $100,000 Top Flight Invitational. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.
NYRA Press Release
Chelsea Durand Photo