Sahara Sky heads to New York to try the Carter Handicap.

Sahara Sky heads to New York to try the Carter Handicap.

Benoit Photo

Hollendorfer Spots Sahara Sky in Carter 'Cap

Trainer looking for grade I win at Aqueduct with his back-to-back grade II winner.

Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer threatens to have grade I winners on both coasts April 6 as he ships Sahara Sky to Aqueduct Racetrack for the $400,000 Carter Handicap (gr. I).

The California-based conditioner has one of the favorites in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) with Hear the Ghost in addition to Sahara Sky, the 120-pound highweight in the seven-furlong Carter.

The Carter, which attracted a seven-horse field, immediately precedes the Wood Memorial (gr. I) on the big Aqueduct program Saturday. It is race 10 with a scheduled post of 5:49 p.m. EDT.

Sahara Sky is a late-blooming 5-year-old son of Pleasant Tap with plenty of gaps in his record. But he has been golden at Santa Anita Park this winter, scoring back-to-back grade II victories in the Palos Verdes and San Carlos stakes. The latter race, which he won by three-quarters of a length, was over seven furlongs, a distance at which the late-running Sahara Sky has excelled.

"As a trainer, I like to think that I’m learning more as time goes along," said Hollendorfer. "So when this horse showed us he needed a little time off, we gave it to him every time, and he’s rewarded us for doing that for him. Last summer, he got real body sore down at Del Mar and we just gave him a little time out, and he came back running for us and then won two big races in a row for us at Santa Anita.

"He’s a lovely horse and I’m looking forward to running him in New York, although I think that’s going to be a pretty tough race, in my opinion."

Hollendorfer, who doesn't ship to New York often, said he opted for the Carter over the $150,000 Potrero Grande Stakes (gr. II), which will be run on the same day at Santa Anita.

"The Carter, it’s such a bigger purse, and our judgment was that the race for $150,000 at Santa Anita could potentially be tougher than the race for $400,000 in New York," Hollendorfer said. "Although I’ve never found anything to be anywhere near easy in New York."

He was also able to secure the services of jockey Joel Rosario, who is proving in New York and Florida what Southern Californians have known for a long timethe guy can ride.

"He's a pretty hot rider right now and (has) ridden a lot of races for me in the past, both in Northern California and in Southern California, and we just love his riding," Hollendorfer said of Rosario, the recent Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner with Animal Kingdom .

Sahara Sky, a six-time winner with six placings from a 14-race career, drew post 4.

Discreet Dancer, shipping from Florida for trainer Todd Pletcher, comes into the race off a pair of victories at Gulfstream Park this season following an 11-month layoff. E. Paul Robsham's Florida homebred by Discreet Cat ran away with the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) in his most recent effort March 9 by 5 1/4 widening lengths.

Javier Castellano again guides 4-year-old Discreet Dancer from the outside gate in the colt's first start away from Gulfstream. The chestnut, getting two pounds from Sahara Sky, has won four of five starts at the Florida oval over two seasons.

The Carter also attracted Swagger Jack and Fort Loudon, second and third, respectively, in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Swagger Jack is a 5-year-old Virginia-bred horse by Smart Strike trained by Marty Wolfson for Silverton Hill Farm. He also ran second, a half-length behind Fort Loudon, in the Gulfstream Sprint Championship (gr. IIIT) prior to his most recent start. Irad Ortiz Jr. picks up the mount.

Nick Zito conditions Fred Brei's hard-knocking sprinter Fort Loudon, an eight-time winner from 22 starts with earnings of $878,123. The 4-year-old Awesome Again  colt tired in the Gulfstream Park Handicap after setting the pace. He has two wins and two seconds from four tries at seven furlongs.

Trainer Bob Baffert sends out Brigand, who ran second as the favorite in the General George Handicap (gr. III) at Laurel Park Feb. 18 but was demoted to fifth for a bumping incident. Kaleem Shah's 4-year-old son of Flatter , seeking a first graded stakes victory, had won four of five starts prior to the General George.

Saturday's Charm, trained by Steve Asmussen for owner Mike McCarty, missed by a nose to Comma to the Top in a highly contentious renewal of the Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III) March 2 at Aqueduct. Godolphin's Consortium steps up for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin out of the same race following a solid fourth, beaten by 1 1/4 lengths.

$400,000 Carter Handicap (gr. I, Race 10, 5:49 p.m.), 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Saturday's Charm (KY), J Alvarado, 114, S M Asmussen
2. Fort Loudon (FL), J Lezcano, 118, N P Zito
3. Consortium (KY), E Castro, 114, K P McLaughlin
4. Sahara Sky (FL), J Rosario, 120, J Hollendorfer
5. Brigand (NY), J R Velazquez, 116, B Baffert
6. Swagger Jack (VA), I Ortiz Jr., 116, M D Wolfson
7. Discreet Dancer (FL), J Castellano, 118, T A Pletcher