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2023 Carter Handicap and Gazelle Stakes

Jevian Toledo gets a hug from assistant trainer Emma Wolfe after winning the Carter Handicap aboard Doppelganger.

Wood Memorial & Bay Shore Stakes

Date: 04/08/2023

There were 4 graded stakes races run over the Aqueduct main track on Saturday. The only Grade 1 event on Wood Memorial day was the $300,000 Carter Handicap (G1) presented by NYRA Bets for older horses sprinting 7 furlongs and an early prep for the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1). Repo Rocks was sent off as the 4-5 favorite in the field of 6 off a 4 race win streak including the Toboggan (G3) and Stymie Stakes. In to challenge him included 3-1 second choice Today's Flavor, making his stakes debut off a 4 race win streak in allowances, and 6-1 third choice Little Vic, winner of the Tom Fool Handicap (G3).
horse racing
Down the stretch in the Carter Handicap

Jockey Manny Franco sent Today's Flavor to the lead out of the chute through fractions of 22.40, 44.84, and 1:09.78 while pressed by 8-1 Expressman and stalked by Little Vic. However, in the final 1/16 Today's Flavor tired badly to eventually finish fifth, as 18-1 longest shot Doppelganger, fifth early under Jevian Toledo, came out 5 wide for room and rallied to win by 1 1/4 lengths over late-running favorite Repo Rocks in 1:23.25. It was a nose back to Expressman third.

Pgm  Horse               Jockey          Win   Place  Show
 7   Doppelganger       Toledo        37.80    7.80  4.40
 4   Repo Rocks         Wolfsont               2.90  2.30
 3   Expressman         Ortiz                        3.40

Winning Time:  1:23.25

$1 Exacta 7-4                29.25
$1 Trifecta 7-4-3           164.50
$1 Superfecta 7-4-3-1       654.00
Results Chart

Left: Doppelganger in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Brittany Russell, celebrating her first Grade 1 win said, said (by phone), "I watched it here from home. We were going crazy, me and Sheldon [Russell, husband] and his mom were here watching it. It was very similar to when Wondrwherecraigis won (the 2021 Bold Ruler Handicap) - apparently these horses just win when we're not there! [Jevian] Toledo did a fantastic job. He knows the horse and had confidence in the horse and he rode him perfect. The fact that were able to run him in the 'a other than' and then he comes back in the 'two other than' - this horse thinks he's on top of the world. He doesn't know what races he won in when he won at Laurel. He's just had a lot of confidence and trained well. I've been getting feedback in the morning from everyone that he's getting better and today it showed."

Right: The trophy presentation for the Carter Handicap. Winning trainer Brittany Russell, "It's huge. Especially this horse. This is the first horse that the group sent me last year. We opted to give him some time and let him develop, and it's nice to see that it pays off. It's a job well done to the whole team and rewarding to see the patience pay off." Assistant trainer Emma Wolfe added, "It was a wonderful trip. This is how he ran last time and he just runs them down – he keeps grinding and keeps running. It was a shorter distance, but he did great. At the eighth pole, he just kept rolling and then we kind of knew. This horse is great. It's just wonderful. I love working for Brittany and she deserves everything. She's one of the best horsewomen to work with. I've worked for her for three years and it's been a great ride."

Left: Doppelganger walks over before the race. Winning jockey Jevian Toledo, celebrating his first Grade 1 win said, "It feels awesome. I can't explain in words. It feels great. It's great to do it here against a tough colony like this one. Brittany gives me a lot of opportunities, so credit to her for getting the horse ready. Thanks to her for bringing me here and keeping me on the horse. The couple times I rode him at Laurel, I always kept him in the clear. That's what I tried today. When the turn came, I had to come over and save ground. I didn't want to keep him all the way to the outside. So I came over, saved ground and went into the clear into the stretch. When he saw the clear in the stretch, he just took off."

Right: Doppelganger returns after the race. Toledo added, "I know he wants to go further, but there was a lot of speed in the race and that helped. He's a good horse. He does whatever you want. Whatever you ask him, he'll do it. He had been running against less company at Laurel. But from the beginning, they thought he could run against nice horses and he proved that he could do it today."

Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Repo Rocks walks over before the race. Jockey Andrew Wolfsont said, "I was very impressed with him down the lane. He had every reason to give up. He was so much the best in his last four starts and today he really had to try. He still gave his effort to be second even though it wasn't his day. I was very happy with my position behind the front three. We were getting out a bit on the turn. All I could do was keep my path and let him run his race." 

Right: Third place finisher Expressman returns after the race. The Todd Pletcher trainee improved his record to 2 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third in 5 starts, earning $170,150 for owner St. Elias Stable.

The filly counterpart to the Wood Memorial is the $250,000 Gazelle Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies, also contested at 1 1/8 miles, worth 100 points to the winner as part of the Kentucky Oaks Championship Series. Busanda Stakes winner Occult was sent off as the 9-5 favorite in the field of 6 over 3-1 second choice Shidabhuti, undefeated winner of the Busher Invitational, and 7-2 third choice Frosty O Toole, making her stakes debut off a 2 race allowance win streak.

Jockey Kendrick Carmouche sent 4-1 fourth choice Capella to the lead first time by through fractions of 24.34, 49.60, and 1:14.37 while pressed by Occult and 26-1 longest shot Promiseher America. Turning for home, Capella tired as Promiseher America took over through 1 mile in 1:38.95. Kept to task by Jorge Vargas Jr., Promiseher America held off late-running 11-2 Gambling Girl to win by 1/2 a length in 1:51.41. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Shidabhuti third, while favorite Occult tired late to finish fifth beaten 5 1/2 lengths.

Results Chart

Left: Promiseher America in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Ray Handal, celebrating his first graded stakes win said, "She was super impressive last time and I said, ‘Let's go the nine furlongs. We can always go back to the 1x if we need to.' But I like the idea of two turns. She's just built like a two-turn kind of horse. She obviously had to step up. It was one of those races where whoever took the biggest step forward would win this race today and she was in the realm of them and she hung on. I didn't expect the pressure from Shidabhuti, but I was glad Jorge held his position and didn't let them come over and shift him out because keeping her face clean and her momentum going was important. In these big races, you don't want to start and stop; you want to keep on finding. Other than that, everything went well."

Right: The trophy presentation for the Gazelle.

Left: Promiseher America walks over before the race.

Right: Promiseher America returns after the race. Winning jockey Jorge Vargas Jr. said, "She never breaks really well, so I was kind of expecting [a slow break]. I let her take her time and then I pushed her a little and she got right into it. I was very pleased where I was the whole trip. She waits a little on horses to fight with them, so I was just hoping to have [a foe] somewhere close around me so she could dig in. It's incredible (to possibly ride in the Kentucky Oaks). I'm happy that Ray gave me the opportunity to be on her today. I'm extra happy and couldn't be any more excited."

Left: Second place finisher and beaten favorite Gambling Girl returns after the race. Jockey Jose Ortiz said, "It was a good trip. I just fell a little behind around the second turn. I knew I was a little wide, but I thought she [Gambling Girl] was the horse to beat, so I was happy doing that. The winner stayed in a good position and kept running for home. I respect that. I was in a good position for 1 1/8. It's really intense for these fillies, most of them haven't run this far before. They can go as slow as they want so they can handle the distance." 

Right: Third place finisher Shidabhuti walks over before the race. The Chad Brown trainee improved her record to 3 wins and 1 third in 4 starts, earning $219,600 for owner Peter Brant.

On to the Wood Memorial and Bay Shore Stakes also on the card.

Past winners of the Carter Handicap
Past winners of the Gazelle Stakes

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