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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – A familiar face, sporting a new look, looks to do what no other horse has done in the past 115 runnings of the Carter Handicap – win the race for a third time.
Dads Caps, the victor of the last two runnings of Aqueduct’s Grade 1, $400,000 Carter, is among eight entered in Saturday’s seven-furlong race for older males.
A 6-year-old homebred for Vincent Scuderi, millionaire Dads Caps has disappointed in his last two starts, which were preceded by a six-month layoff to recuperate from knee surgery to remove a chip.
In hopes of shaking things up a bit, Dads Caps’ trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, has orchestrated a jockey change, replacing Jose Ortiz with his older brother, Irad Ortiz Jr., and will remove the blinkers the horse has worn in his last six starts, including the 2015 Carter.
“I’m switching up everything, and I’m hoping it works,” said Rodriguez on Wednesday morning at his Aqueduct barn.
In two starts this year, Dads Caps, a son of Discreet Cat, finished seventh in the Grade 3 Toboggan Handicap and ninth in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap. Both those races were run on Aqueduct’s inner track.
“He likes the main track better,” said Rodriquez, who has trained Dads Caps since the horse began his racing career in February 2013, “but I think those two races on the inner will move him up for this race.
“When we ran him the first time off the layoff, he made a nice move and he got to [pacesetter] Green Gatto,” he added. “But at the sixteenth pole, he flattened out. In his last race, he got the lead too easily, and it looked like he was going to win, but he flattened again.
Rodriquez has already given Dads Caps’ new rider specific instructions.
“I told Irad I would like to see him three or four lengths off the early lead,” Rodriquez remarked. “I think he has one move only, a quarter-mile or less. If the pace moves along up front, Irad can put the horse in a good position. I’m told Irad to wait. Last year when he won the Carter, he was still behind horses at the quarter-pole. When Jose asked him, he took off pretty good.”
Dads Caps drew post 3 and was listed at 8-1 on the morning line.
Rodriguez will also saddle Sassicaia, 10-1, in the Carter. The Robert LaPenta-owned 5-year-old recorded his first stakes victory in the six-furlong Toboggan on January 30. He is unraced since then, as Rodriguez said the son of Bernardini typically runs his better races with space in between starts.
The Chad Brown-trained Majestic Affair, an improving 4-year-old, offers intrigue. The gelding, who is owned by Thomas Coleman and Doheny Racing Stable, exits a sharp second-place finish in the Grade 3 General George at Laurel Park in mid-February. Preceding that, Majestic Affair won the two-turn Jazil Stakes over a muddy track inner track at Aqueduct. There is a 50 percent chance of rain on Saturday.
“”He ran terrific and a good horse beat him,” Brown said of Majestic Affair’s second to Page McKenney in the seven-furlong General George. “I figure he fits in the Carter field. Once this horse got older, we tried him going longer, and he won. I think this horse’s future this year will be going a little longer than seven-eighths, but given the opportunity to run in a Grade 1 with a horse who is currently in good form, makes it worth a shot.”
Kendrick Carmouche has the mount on Majestic Affair, who breaks from post 2 at 5-2 on the morning line.
Millionaire Salutos Amigos, the morning-line favorite at 2-1, usually always shows up ready to answer the challenge. The 6-year-old millionaire won the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap for the second year in a row in stylish fashion at Aqueduct last month. Trainer and co-owner David Jacobson flirted with the idea of taking the gelding to Dubai to run in the Group 1 Golden Shaheen, a race he finished eighth in last year, but the logistics of getting him there proved difficult, so the Carter came onto the table. A multiple graded stakes winner, Salutos Amigos seeks the first Grade 1 victory of his career in the Carter.
Cornelio Velasquez, aboard for both of Salutos Amigos’ Tom Fool wins, rides from post 2.
Jacobson has also entered Stallwalkin’ Dude, a former claimer who is in search of his first graded stakes win.
Calculator, the 2015 Grade 3 Sham Stakes winner, makes his first start outside of the Golden State. Trained by Peter Miller, who shipped Comma to the Top from his Southern California home base to Aqueduct to win the 2013 Tom Fool, Calculator finished third in last month’s Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita.
Completing the Carter field is Anchor Down, who was disqualified from third in his stakes debut and placed fourth for interference in last month’s Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Handicap, and the likely pacesetter, Green Gratto, who won both the 2015 Grade 3 Fall Highweight and 2016 Gravesend at Aqueduct in gate-to-wire fashion.
The field for the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap:
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