Army Mule Steps Up in Carter Handicap

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 5th, 2018

For a seven-furlong Grade 1 sprint with eleven starters, there isn’t a ton of speed on paper in Saturday’s $400,000 Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct.

The lack of serious front-runners could play to the strengths of #2 Army Mule and #9 Skyler’s Scramjet, who also figure to start among the favorites. Skyler’s Scramjet, a four-year-old gelding trainer by Michelle Nevin, has been on fire as of late, winning three straight races sprinting six furlongs at Aqueduct, including the Tom Fool Handicap (gr. III).

But in Army Mule, Skyler’s Scramjet is facing a formidable rival. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Army Mule is very lightly raced with just two starts under his belt, but both of those were sprints that yielded blowout victories. After breaking his maiden by 8 ½ lengths going 6 ½ furlongs last April at Belmont Park, Army Mule was on the sidelines for nine months, but returned as good as ever with an effortless 7 ½-length win in a six-furlong allowance sprint at Gulfstream.

I was particularly impressed by Army Mule’s Gulfstream effort, as he overcame a slow start to roll past the leaders in the homestretch and sprint the final quarter-mile in :23.46 seconds, an exceptional time. With BRIS speed figures of 100 and 105, there’s no telling how bright the future might be for Army Mule, whose exceptional speed and ability to rate just off the pace could make him difficult to beat in his stakes debut.

I also respect the chances of #4 Do Share, who closed strongly to finish second by 1 ½ lengths against Skyler’s Scramjet in the Tom Fool. He was conceding five pounds to the winner that day, but his disadvantage is reduced to two pounds for the Carter and he’ll also get another furlong to work with. Unlike Skyler’s Scramjet, who is essentially unproven going this far, Do Share won going a mile at Aqueduct last year and should be finishing strongly from behind, particularly if Army Mule takes the race to Skyler’s Scramjet early on and a fast pace develops.

Also worth a close look is #11 Awesome Slew, never out of the exacta in four starts going seven furlongs, including a runner-up effort in the Forego Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga last summer. Trained by Mark Casse, Awesome Slew hasn’t run since finishing a solid third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) in November and might need to get a race under his belt, but he’s been training steadily at Palm Meadows and can certainly be a player in the Carter.

I’ll play Army Mule in the exacta and trifecta while adding the other logical players and #6 Petrov for second and third:

$5 exacta: 2 with 4,9 ($10) $4 exacta: 2 with 6,11 ($8) $1 trifecta: 2 with 4,6,9,11 with 4,6,9,11 ($12)

Good luck!