Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Vino Rosso will look to make Wood Memorial Day a winning one for a second straight year, headlining an eight-horse field in the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap for 4-year-olds and up on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Vino Rosso will return to graded stakes company after posting a three-quarter length score in the one-mile Stymie on March 9 at Aqueduct. The 2018 Wood Memorial winner will be making his first Grade 1 start since running fifth in the Runhappy Travers on August 25, following a third-place in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, fourth in the Belmont Stakes and ninth in the Kentucky Derby.
The Todd Pletcher trainee will be running back at the Big A, where the 4-year-old is 3-for-3 lifetime, including his debut win as a juvenile in November 2017. That maiden-breaking effort was notable for the fact it was his only previous start at the Carter's seven-furlong distance.
“He's training great. We really like the way he came out of the Stymie,” said Pletcher, who won last year's Carter with Army Mule. “He's fully matured as a 4-year-old and really filled out. He's not only matured physically but mentally as well, and we're really pleased with his first race off the bench.
“I felt he ran sharply enough at a mile that backing up to seven-eighths would be within his range,” he added. “He was able to break his maiden at Aqueduct going seven furlongs. He also has a 3-for-3 record at Aqueduct, so that's encouraging also.”
Pletcher said Vino Rosso's ability to get a Grade 1 win could bolster his prospects as a stallion.
“We're not sure of that (sprinting as his future), but the Grade 1 status of the Carter and being such a prestigious race that it really felt like a horse with his conformation and pedigree is a major stallion prospect and a Grade 1-win would really bring him forward, especially if you were able to win at multiple distances such as the Wood at a mile and an eighth. If he's able to step up and win a race like the Carter at seven furlongs, it really shows versatility.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who has piloted Vino Rosso in all 10 of his previous starts, will have the return call from post 2. Velazquez won the Carter with Morning Line in 2011 and Kodiak Kowboy in 2009.
Trainer Jason Servis enters a pair of formidable contenders, including the ultra-consistent World of Trouble, for owners Michael Dubb and Madaket Stables, and M and A Racing's Life in Shambles.
World of Trouble, 6-2-1 in 10 career starts, is 2-for-2 on dirt following a second-place finish by a neck to Stormy Liberal in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint on November 3 at Churchill Downs.
The 4-year-old Kantharos colt won at seven furlongs to cap his sophomore campaign on December 15 at Tampa Bay Downs and started the year with a 2 ¾-length win in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint that was moved to the dirt and contested at five furlongs.
Since Servis took over training duties, World of Trouble is 5-1-1 in eight races, with all five victories coming in stakes races.
“I knew we had something special when I first ran him at Tampa [Pasco] as 2-year-old and he won by 13 [lengths] and was a just a tick off the track record, but he's been really special for us,” Servis said. “He's performed every time out and we're excited to get his spring campaign going in the Carter.
“He's shown he has ability on both the dirt and turf,” he added. “The way he won at Saratoga was impressive after rebounding form the Woody Stephens and I think he's really moved up another level since then. We're just trying to keep him happy and healthy and hopefully he can run his race.”
Manny Franco, who won the Aqueduct winter meet riding title, will break from post 8.
Life in Shambles has registered Beyer Speed Figures of 90 or better in each of his last six starts, including a 91 in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap for his runner-up effort to Do Share on March 9 at Aqueduct.
The 8-year-old Broken Vow gelding will be making his 45th career start. Jockey Eric Cancel will ride from post 3.
Klaravich Stables' Identity Politics has run second three straight times for trainer Chad Brown, including to McKinzie in the Grade 1 Malibu that ended his 3-year-old year December 26 at Santa Anita.
Trainer Chad Brown gave Identity Politics a two-month break before sending him back out against optional claimers on March 3 at Gulfstream Park. Identity Politics, purchased for $350,000 at the 2017 Ocala Breeders' Sale, has one win and three seconds in four starts since switching to the dirt.
Jose Ortiz drew the assignment, breaking from post 4.
Peter Callahan's Sir Ballantine will be making his first stakes appearance in his 21st career start. Trainer Danny Gargan said the Carter's conditions – and the fact the 5-year-old son of Stay Thirsty won his last race at seven furlongs on February 23 at Aqueduct – enticed him to enter.
“He's an older horse and it's a smaller field,” Gargan said. “He likes the track and likes the distance; this is his best distance, so we figured we'd take a chance. With a light field, you sometimes run a horse you wouldn't necessarily run in a Grade 1, but with the way it's coming up, he fits with those [competitors].”
Mike Luzzi, who was aboard for Sir Ballantine's 1 ¼-length win last out, will be up again, drawing post 1.
Skyler's Scramjet will get another chance at Carter glory after running fourth last year.
The Creative Cause gelding has four wins in nine career starts and two runner-up efforts at Aqueduct, including by a head to Recruiting Ready in the Gravesend on December 23 in which he earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure, marking just the second triple-digit effort in 16 career starts. He is also stabled at Aqueduct.
“He's been training good, so we'll see what happens,” Nevin said. “It's always an advantage to not have to ship and stay at home.”
Rajiv Maragh will be in the irons from post 5.
Honor Up goes for a fourth consecutive win after edging Syndergaard by a nose in the one-mile Haynesfield on February 17. That followed a win in the seven-furlong Say Florida Sandy on January 12 over the same Aqueduct track. Making just his second career graded stakes appearance, and first since a seventh-place result in the Grade 3 Lexington in April, Honor Up drew post 7 with Jose Lezcano.
Timber Ghost, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, will run in a stakes for the first time, drawing post 6 with Junior Alvarado aboard.
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