Saturday’s $250,000 dollar seven-furlong Carter Handicap is the first Grade 1 Stakes race of the modified Belmont Park spring/summer meeting, and it has attracted a deep field of 11 runners.
Here then is a full-field analysis of the Carter, along with Morning Line odds. It is slated as Race 9 on a card of 11 with a scheduled Post Time of 5:35.
1. FIRENZE FIRE [ML 7-2] Trainer: Kelly Breen. Jockey: Manny Franco. The leading money Winner in the Carter is riding a three-race Winning streak that includes a four-length Victory at Laurel in the seven-furlong General George (G3) in February. He has been training smartly at Belmont Park.
2. PERFORMER [ML 3-1] Trainer: Shug McGaughey. Jockey: Joel Rosario. He has Won his last four starts, including his first Stakes score in the Discovery Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct in November while pressing the pace. He hasn’t raced since November. So this could very well be a prep race for future starts in the handicap division.
3. STILL HAVING FUN [ML 20-1] Trainer: Tim Keefe. Jockey: Dylan Davis. This gelding ships up from Laurel Park with two Grade 3 efforts at the Maryland track in the early winter. He has not Won a race since he upset the 2018 Woody Stephens (G2) at odds of 13-1 with a late rally.
4. NITROUS [ML 15-1] Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Jose Ortiz. This late-running son of TAPIT has consistently faced top competition from the sprint division. He has two listed stakes Victories and recently raced in only Graded stakes. As a deep closer, he needs a fast pace setup that is not likely to happen here.
5. NETWORK EFFECT [ML 8-1] Trainer: Chad Brown. Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. This 4 year-old has settled into one-turn racing. He spent some time on the Kentucky Derby trail back in 2018. He has Won both his starts at seven furlongs, including a Florida-bred stakes at Gulfstream Park and his career debut at Saratoga. He may be best at this distance, but it is a tough spot as he moves back up in class.
6. MIDNIGHTCHARLY [ML 50-1] Trainer: Edward Coletti Jr. Jockey: Mychel Sanchez. This Pennsylvania-bred ships up from Parx, where racing is still shut down. He is a consistent performer who hit the board in 13 of his 15 career starts and was last seen running 2nd to FIRENZE FIRE after a late closing move in a Stake race at Penn National in November. This will be his first try in a Graded Stakes race.
7. AMERICAN ANTHEM [ML 15-1] Trainer: Danny Gargan. Jockey: Kendrick Carmouche. This 6-year-old was at his best Winning Graded stakes back in 2017 and 2018 when he took the Woody Stephens (G2) as a 3-year-old in his only start at Belmont Park. Last year he was an Allowance Winner at Del Mar. He is zero for two in his 20202 starts. Four of his career Wins have come at Saturday’s distance.
8. BON RAISON [ML 30-1] Trainer: David Cannizzo. Jockey: Eric Cancel. This durable horse was claimed for $80,000 at Aqueduct in January and returned for his new to run 3rd in the Tom Fool (G3) a few lengths behind MIND CONTROL. He was the Winner of two listed Stakes races in his 39 career starts.
9. MAJESTIC DUNHILL [ML 20-1] Trainer: George Weaver. Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez. Starting with a positive note, in his last seven starts he did go the distance of the Carter. However, he last Won a race back in 2018 when he rallied from far back to Win a Stakes race at Laurel.
10. MIND CONTROL [ML 4-1] Trainer: Gregg Sacco. Jockey: John Velazquez. Shows three consecutive Graded stakes Victories coming into this race. Two of those Wins came at seven furlongs, including last summer’s Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga. He has shown determination and the ability to overcome adversity throughout his career whether after a troubled trip or a poor start.
11. VEKOMA [ML 7-2] Trainer: George Weaver. Jockey: Javier Castellano. The 2019 Blue Grass (G2) Winner went on to run 13th in the Kentucky Derby. He was then off for almost a year due to some physical setbacks before he returned to take the seven-furlong Sir Shackleton at Gulfstream Park with an impressive stalking trip. Not for nothin, but he Won his career debut sprinting at Belmont Park as a 2-year-old.
Summary: Seven-furlong races tend to favor horses that run from off the pace, and this field is loaded with late runners. The Carter is actually lacking any significant early speed, which means we should expect a number of live contenders coming down the stretch.
If that scenario holds up it favors MIND CONTROL(#10), who has consistently proven to be hard to beat in a battle at the finish. He has also overcome adversity several times in the past — good to know in large field. Regular rider John Velazquez gets back on board at the horse’s favorite distance.