There are a few fascinating storylines heading into this edition of the prestigious Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap.
- Can the enigmatic Dads Caps win his third consecutive Carter Handicap?
- Can Salutos Amigos finally earn that elusive Grade 1 victory?
- Can Green Gratto finally run back to that otherworldly 136 speed figure?
- Can California invader Calculator finally fulfill the potential he showed as a two-year-old?
This Carter drew a field of eight, and every single entrant is a legitimate contender for top honors. For such an important sprint race, there is a lack of true frontrunners in this race, which is why the Pace Projector places #4 Green Gratto clearly in front in a situation favoring horses on or near the lead. That may or may not work against a closer like Salutos Amigos, depending on how the race shapes up.
Let’s go through the field:
#1, Sassicaia (10/1): He worked out an absolutely perfect trip to take down the Toboggan last time, coming through along the inside after rating well off an extremely fast pace. He had been in great form, but we do wonder where he’s been for the last 70 days. A minor award is probably his ceiling.
#2, Majestic Affair (5/2): This Chad Brown trainee is a major player in this race. Though he did stretch out successfully this winter, he’s always been a perfectly capable sprinter, and he confirmed that last time with a game runner-up finish in the General George. The 125 speed figure that he earned for that effort stacks up very well in this field. He was able to stay relatively close to Green Gratto last time, and Kendrick Carmouche will probably try to work out a similar trip here, considering that there is not that much speed signed on.
#3, Dads Caps (8/1): It’s amazing to think that this horse is attempting to win his third straight Carter Handicap—especially considering that he hasn’t won a race other than the Carter since November 2013. It’s safe to say that he’s just been in the right place at the right time in each of the last two years. However, he’ll be hard-pressed to repeat those feats. He appears to have lost a step now at age six, and it’s hard to envision him taking advantage of another fortunate trip against a field this deep.
#4, Green Gratto (12/1): The Pace Projector places him on a clear early lead, and that may come to fruition if they decide to rate Dads Caps, as they did in last year’s Carter. He was no match for Majestic Affair in the General George last time, but he appeared to struggle with the deep track at Laurel. Previously, he had been on a tear in New York, running a hole in the wind when taking the Gravesend with a gigantic 136 speed figure. Though he lost to Sassicaia in the Toboggan, he still ran a competitive speed figure after setting a supersonic early pace (color-coded in red). Seven furlongs has always been a stretch for this guy, but he nearly pulled off a shocker in this race last year and he is unquestionably in better form now.
#5, Salutos Amigos (2/1):
He is finally getting a chance to go for that elusive Grade 1 victory at his favorite venue. He showed that he’s still in top form last time despite notching a couple of cross-country trips without a layoff in sight. While the pace was fast (color-coded in red) in the Tom Fool, he was absolutely flying through the stretch, running his last quarter mile in under 24 seconds. That was the good Salutos Amigos that we’ve come to love. We see him most often at Aqueduct, and if he shows up today, we doubt any of his competitors will be able to hold him off. The prospect of a wet track by the time this race goes off would only enhance his chances.
#6, Anchor Down (6/1): He put in a decent effort in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, but this race came up tougher. He appears to lack the quickness to compete for a top placing in a Grade 1 event at this distance.
#7, Calculator (6/1): He’s certainly one of the most intriguing entrants in this race. Once considered to be a top two-year-old after twice finishing second to American Pharoah, he was sent to the sidelines after a successful three-year-old debut. He’s made two starts since returning from the layoff and he’s been away from the gate slowly on both occasions. That could be an issue if he pulls the same stunt here against the toughest field he’s ever faced. Ultimately, while we acknowledge that he still has upside, his very best speed figures are still a good 5 to 10 points too slow to seriously threaten horses like Salutos Amigos or Majestic Affair.
#8, Stallwalkin’ Dude (15/1): He’s the longest shot on the morning line, but he should not be ignored. He ran a strong race off the layoff in the Tom Fool, overcoming a three-wide trip chasing a fast pace. He followed that up with an impressive allowance win at Parx. There’s rain in the forecast, and any moisture in the track would move him up.
We’re not trying to beat SALUTOS AMIGOS (#5). Majestic Affair (#2) is the obvious horse to use with him, but we’ll also throw in Green Gratto (#4) and Stallwalkin’ Dude (#8) underneath in the hopes of adding some value to exactas and trifectas.
5 with 2,4,8 with 2,4,8
5 with 2,4,8 with 1,3,6,7