By Karen M. Johnson
Spring at Last, winner of the 2007 Godolphin Mile (UAE-II), skipped the trip to Dubai this year but will be in action at Aqueduct in the $300,000 Carter Handicap (gr. I) April 5.
Trainer Doug O’Neill said from California that the 5-year-old son of Silver Deputy will work March 28 at Hollywood Park. After that effort, a final decision on the runner’s next start will be made.
“The (Carter) is the game plan,” O’Neill said. “On Friday, (the owners) and I will huddle-up and finalize the decision."
Spring at Last is co-owned by his breeder, WinStar Farm, and J. Paul Reddam.
O’Neill, who will be represented by two runners on this year’s Dubai World Cup card March 29 – Great Hunter in the World Cup (UAE-I) and Notional in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) – said last year’s journey to the Middle East with Spring at Last was tough on the horse.
“We basically ran out of time to get him to Dubai this year,” O’Neill said. “It is kind of a taxing journey, and we made a group decision not to put him through that this year. We had to lay him up a little after the trip last year, and we thought it might be over the top to do again.”
Spring at Last underwent surgery last May to have a small bone chip removed from his ankle, and didn’t return to competition until Dec. 26.
Since winning the Godolphin Mile, Spring at Last has raced twice. In his first start after the March 31 Godolphin Mile, the horse won an allowance race at Santa Anita Park Dec. 26. In his most recent race, Spring at Last posted a mild upset to win the Donn Handicap (gr.I) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 2.
Spring at Last has displayed versatility throughout his 12-race career, winning on dirt, turf, sprinting and routing. Because of the horse’s adaptability, O’Neill knows his long-range plan is to have him ready to run at Santa Anita Park on the Breeders’ Cup card Oct. 25. The question is, what race?
“He is so versatile, the sky is the limit,” O’Neill said. “The Carter is to get the ball rolling. We are very excited by this horse. The Breeders’ Cup is the goal, but we’ll see what race.”
The seven-furlong Carter would mark Spring at Last’s first start at Aqueduct since he won an allowance race there in November 2006. In the one-mile race on the main track, Spring at Last romped to a 7 ½-length win over Barcola, who is running in this year’s Godolphin Mile.
O’Neill said Spring at Last will be ridden in the Carter by Garrett Gomez, who was aboard for his Godolphin Mile win. The horse will fly to New York April 1.
As of March 26, New York Racing Association stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes said in addition to Spring at Last, the expected Carter starters are Bustin Stones, King of the Roxy, Lord Snowdon, Premium Wine, and Sir Greeley.