SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY – St. Elias Stable’s Army Mule made a powerful move in the far turn before completely crushing his competition in Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct.
Breaking from post 2 under Joe Bravo, Army Mule settled off the early pacet as Red Dragon Tattoo and Green Gratto dueled on the front end through splits of :22.09 and :44.93. Making a powerful sweeping move through the far turn, Army Mule quickly closed the gap on the leaders, then exploded down the stretch to easily win by 6 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:20.94 for the 7-furlong main track event.
“He was so relaxed and quiet behind horses,” said Bravo. “I was kind of looking to try to get outside because it seemed like the other races were going down the middle of the track. Everybody starting coming outside and they took up those positions, and in two jumps, he was able to jump through that hole and go by there, because that’s what good horses do.”
The 9-5 favorite Awesome Slew was much the best of the rest, taking second by 3 1/4 lengths over a fast-closing Great Stuff. Fourth went to Skyler’s Scramjet over Petrov, with Favorable Outcome, Fellowship, Do Share, Red Dragon Tattoo, Spartiatis, and Green Gratto completing the order of finish.
Army Mule’s win was his third in as many career starts. The Todd Pletcher trainee debuted with a win at Belmont Park last April before being sidelined until late January, when he returned to win a first-level allowance event at Gulfstream Park. The 4-year-old son of Friesan Fire increased his career earnings to $311,400 and could next try for his first Grade 1 in the $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap on June 9.
“The sky’s the limit with him,” said Pletcher. “He’s just a super talented horse, and it’s a matter of keeping him happy and healthy and pointing him in the right direction. The way he finished today at 7/8, a race like the Met Mile would certainly make sense and be on the radar.”
Army Mule returned $6.20 to win, $4.30 to place, and $3.60 to show. Awesome Slew brought back $3.30 to place and $2.80 to show, while Great Stuff paid $5.10 to show.