East Meets West in Carter Handicap
By Karen Johnson
Bustin Stones and Spring at Last, two horses at the top of their game, meet in an East vs. West showdown in the $300,000 Carter Handicap (gr.I) at Aqueduct April 5.
The undefeated Bustin Stones, a top sprinter on the East Coast, faces California invader Spring at Last, who has performed well at varying distances on dirt and grass.
The seven-furlong Carter attracted a field of 10. Spring at Last is the 121-pound highweight. Also entered is King of the Roxy, City Attraction, Lord Snowdon, Not for Money, Premium Wine, Stormin Normandy, Executive Fleet, and Ryan’s for Real.
Bustin Stones, a New York-bred son of City Zip , is undefeated in five starts for trainer Bruce Levine and owner-breeder Roddy J. Valente. The 4-year-old makes his grade I debut in the Carter.
In the General George (gr.II) at Laurel Park Feb. 18, Bustin Stones won his first graded race by a head over Lord Snowdon. Since the General George, Bustin Stones has had a steady stream of solid works on Belmont Park’s training track.
A foul weather forecast means Aqueduct’s main track is likely to be wet for the Carter. Bustin Stones won on a track labeled “good” in the General George.
Bustin Stones, assigned 116 pounds in the Carter, has set the pace in each of his starts, and his ability to rate is unknown.
“We are going to have to play the break, and see what the post position is,” Levine said before the race was drawn April 3. “(Rick) Dutrow has Stormin Normandy in there as a rabbit. Before I knew Stormin Normandy was running, I was inclined to go to the lead.”
Bustin Stones drew post nine, and will race on Lasix for the first time after a spot of blood was detected following a workout last month. Edgar Prado rides. Stormin Normandy is in post three.
Spring at Last is based at Hollywood Park with trainer Doug O’Neill, and won last year’s Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) for owners WinStar Farm and Paul Reddam. A 5-year-old son of Silver Deputy, Spring at Last showed his versatility in his last race by winning the 1 1/8-mile Donn Handicap (gr.I) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 2.
California-based horses have fared well in the Carter, with three of the last 10 winners (Congaree, Pico Central, and Wild Rush) shipping in from the West Coast.
Spring at Last has no experience over wet surfaces. If he handles the off going, the stalker could benefit from a speed duel between Bustin Stones and Stormin Normandy. Spring at Last only raced once at the Carter distance, finishing second in the 2006 Malibu Stakes (gr.I) at Santa Anita.
“I think seven furlongs is okay for him,” said O’Neill, who hopes to use the Carter as a steppingstone to the Metropolitan Mile (gr.I) at Belmont May 26. “You need to have some kind of distance mentality at seven furlongs and he has that.”
Garret Gomez rides Spring at Last from post 6.
Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., who won the Carter last year with Silver Wagon, will saddle the uncoupled trio of Stormin Normandy, City Attraction, and Not for Money. Dutrow’s brother, Tony, is represented by the uncoupled entry of Lord Snowdon and Premium Wine, who was third in the General George.
$300,000 Carter Handicap (gr. I, Race 10, 5:50 p.m.), 3 & Up, Seven Furlongs
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