PA-bred Army Mule romps to G1 Carter victory

by | Apr 8, 2018 | Breaking

Army Mule was much the best in the Carter at Aqueduct. Photo by NYRA.

From a New York Racing Association release

Army Mule found an opening on the far turn and ran away to a 6 ¼-length victory in the 118th running of the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap for 4-year-olds and up on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Making his stakes debut off a pair of open-length victories, the Pennsylvania-bred Army Mule rated two lengths off the pace in third through a half-mile in 44.93 seconds. Pacesetter Red Dragon Tattoo drifted outward nearing the quarter-pole, and Army Mule shot through the opening and drove clear under jockey Joe Bravo.

“He was so relaxed and quiet behind horses,” said Bravo. “I was kind of looking to try to get outside because it seemed like the other races were going down the middle of the track. Everybody starting coming outside and they took up those positions and in two jumps, he was able to jump through that hole and go by there, because that’s what good horses do.”

Army Mule, a 4-year-old son of Maryland sire Friesan Fire, returned $6.20 for a $2 win wager as the 2-1 favorite in the field of 11 and completed seven furlongs in 1:20.94.

Trained by Todd Pletcher for Vincent Viola of St. Elias Stable, Army Mule debuted an 8 ½-length winner last April at Belmont Park before being sidelined for nine months. He returned in an optional claimer January 31 at Gulfstream Park, overcoming a slow start to score by 7 ½ lengths. The Carter was his first start beyond 6 ½ furlongs.

“You don’t expect to win a Grade 1 by that many lengths, and I didn’t even think the track is that fast today,” said Pletcher, now a three-time winner of the Carter. “He’s something really special. We felt good coming into the race. My biggest concern was that it was only his third race and he was giving up a lot of seasoning to some other horses, but he showed us he deserved a chance, and I’m glad it worked out.”

Pletcher said Army Mule could possibly make his next start in the Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day, June 9.

“The sky’s the limit with him,” said Pletcher. “He’s just a super talented horse and it’s a matter of keeping him happy and healthy and pointing him in the right direction. The way he finished today at seven-eighths, a race like the Met Mile would certainly make sense and be on the radar.”

Army Mule has earned $311,400, including $240,000 for his Carter victory.

Awesome Slew, making his first start since finishing third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, finished 3 ¼ lengths ahead of third-place finisher Great Stuff.

Skyler’s Scramjet finished fourth and was followed home by Petrov, Favorable Outcome, Fellowship, Do Share, Red Dragon Tattoo, Spartiatis, and Green Gratto.