Improvement needed by Dads Caps to achieve historic Carter three-peat

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April 6th, 2016

If Dads Caps is to become the first horse in the 116-year history of the $400,000 Carter H. (G1) to win the race three consecutive times, he'll have to show more than he has in two previous starts this year.

Luckily for the six-year-old, the Carter is run over Aqueduct's main track, over which he possesses a three-for-three mark. However, seventh- and ninth-place efforts in the Toboggan (G3) and Tom Fool H. (G3) were well below par based on his own inner track record, and he simply hasn't come close to the form he showed prior to an eight-month layoff that began last June when he was sidelined with a knee chip.

"I'm switching up everything, and I'm hoping it works," said trainer Rudy Rodriguez, referring to the decision to remove blinkers and switch riders from Jose Ortiz to Irad Ortiz Jr.

"When we ran him the first time off the layoff, he made a nice move and he got to Green Gatto," he added. "But at the sixteenth pole, he flattened out. In his last race, he got the lead too easily, and it looked like he was going to win, but he flattened again.

"I told Irad I would like to see him three or four lengths off the early lead," Rodriguez said. "I think he has one move only, a quarter-mile or less. If the pace moves along up front, Irad can put the horse in a good position. I'm told Irad to wait. Last year when he won the Carter, he was still behind horses at the quarter pole. When Jose asked him, he took off pretty good."

The morning line favorite is Salutos Amigos, who snapped a seven-race losing skid with a remarkable last-to-first rally in the six-furlong Tom Fool. Down nine lengths with a quarter-mile to go, the David Jacobson-trained specialist launched an eight-wide bid and ran past rivals like they were standing still to win by more than two lengths.

Jacobson also saddles Grade 1-placed Stallwalkin' Dude, who placed in the Tom Fool and exits a Parx allowance win. Rudy Rodriguez also has backup in Sassicaia, unraced since taking Toboggan by a neck in late January.

The field also includes Fall Highweight H. (G3) and Gravesend winner Green Gratto; Grade 3 scorer Calculator, third in the San Carlos (G2) last time; General George (G3) runner-up Majestic Affair; and Anchor Down, who caused some stretch interference last time in the Gulfstream Park H. (G2) and was demoted from third to fourth.

Unified, a dazzling, three-length debut winner for Jimmy Jerkens at Gulfstream February 21, steps up to stakes company in the $300,000 Bay Shore (G3) for three-year-olds at seven furlongs. He'll have a tough battle on his hands facing Jimmy Winkfield winner Awesome Gent and Cocked and Loaded, who took the Iroquois (G3) and Tremont last season.

Other stakes winners in the field are Awesome Speed, Never Gone South, King Kranz, and Richie the Bull, though the first two mentioned were cross-entered to Saturday's Federico Tesio at Laurel over nine furlongs.

The stakes action kicks off early in the card with the $200,000 Excelsior (G3) for older horses at 1 1/4 miles. The field of five includes multiple Grade 2 winner Madefromlucky, his Stymie conqueror Turco Bravo, recent John B. Campbell winner Kid Cruz, and Norumbega, ostensibly using this as a prep for a title defense in the Brooklyn (G2) June 11.

(Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography)