After finishing sixth in last year’s Louisiana Derby, the then-three-year-old son of Tale of the Cat returned to his home base in New York and ran down War Pass to finish first in the 2008 Wood Memorial. He closed out the year winning the Grade 1Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile upon Harlem Rocker’s disqualification for interference in the stretch.
The 109th running of the Carter Handicap is the final leg of an all-stakes $450,000 Pick 4 on Saturday’s Wood Memorial Day program. The Carter will be race 10 (5:51 p.m.) of an 11-race card that begins at 1 p.m. MSG plus will televise the Wood Memorial and Carter during its one-hour telecast that begins at 5 p.m. ET.
“I wanted to get a good race in him before the Met Mile ($600,000 G1 at Belmont on May 25) and I thought the Carter was a good spot to run back,” said Tale of Ekati’s trainer Barclay Tagg. “I didn’t like the way he handled the track at Gulfstream Park and he seems to like Aqueduct – I know he likes Belmont.”
Tale of Ekati finished fourth, beaten four and a half lengths, after an awkward start in his last effort, the Grade 2, seven-furlong Richter Scale Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream.
“I was disappointed with that race, but sometimes they get away badly and all that just because they don’t like the footing,” Tagg said. “That said, I don’t think he’s necessarily a seven-furlong horse.”
Tagg said Tale of Ekati will be based in New York this spring. Edgar Prado, who has ridden the colt in both of his previous Aqueduct victories, will be in the irons on Saturday.
Owner/trainer King T. Leatherbury’s Ah Day, a 6-year-old gelded son of Malibu Moon, also has a history of success at Aqueduct. Ah Day finished a game third in the 2007 Carter, but due to various hind-end problems, has only made four starts since then.
One of those starts, his most recent, was an impressive last-to-first victory coming off of a nearly seven-month layoff in the Grade 3, six-furlong Toboggan Handicap over Aqueduct’s inner dirt track on March 7.
“The horse had a lot of hard-to-detect hind-end problems that just required time to heal [and kept him from running regularly],” Leatherbury said. “He’s had no surgery of any kind, and he seems ready to run back in a normal time frame now. It’s going to be tough, it’s a Grade 1, but when he’s right, he’s tough himself.”
Ah Day will ship up from Maryland on Friday. Apprentice Sheldon Russell, who earned his first graded stakes win aboard Ah Day in the Toboggan, also has the mount in the Carter.
The expected speed in the race will come from sprint specialists True Quality and Fabulous Strike.
Paraneck Stable’s True Quality and Walter Downey’s Fabulous Strike have traded one-two finishes in recent starts. While True Quality edged Fabulous Strike in the Grade 2, seven-furlong General George Handicap at Laurel in February, Fabulous Strike held on for a 1 ¾-length victory in their previous meeting, the Grade 3, six-furlong Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct in December.
“[True Quality] is three for four and he’s doing good,” said trainer John P. Campo Jr. “If he gets a nice trip and everything goes well, then, hopefully, we’ll get to take another picture.”
New York-based True Quality, a 4-year-old son of Elusive Quality, will get the services of C.C. Lopez on Saturday.
Todd Beattie-conditioned Fabulous Strike, the highweight in the race at 123 pounds, will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez.
Fox Hill Farms’ Biker Boy and Kodiak Kowboy will run as an entry in the Carter.
Biker Boy has won four of five lifetime starts, his last three in allowance company. Kodiak Kowboy ran second in his last effort, the Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at Fair Grounds, prior to that he ran fifth in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in November.
Completing the field in the Carter are WinStar Farm’s Understatement and Repole Stable’s Driven by Success.
Understatement, trained by Todd Pletcher, has won his last two starts going a mile and a sixteenth at Aqueduct. Driven by Success comes off a fifth-place effort in the Toboggan Handicap at Aqueduct last month.