On a busy Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct, the Wood Memorial (G2) and Gazelle S. (G3) served as the feature events. But four undercard stakes also took place, highlighted by a strong renewal of the Carter H. (G1).
Speaker’s Corner was favored at 3-4 after rattling off a pair of graded wins racing one mile at Gulfstream Park to open the season. Cutting back to seven furlongs didn’t bother the Godolphin homebred at all, as Speaker’s Corner dueled for the lead through a :23.17 opening quarter, took command through half a mile in :46.11, and drew off readily down the homestretch to trounce his pursuers by 4 1/2 lengths.
The final time was a snappy 1:21.34, and the next three horses across the finish line—Reinvestment Risk, Mind Control, and Green Light Go—have all won or placed at the Grade 1 level, indicating the strength of Speaker’s Corner’s performance. Drafted, Bank On Shea, and First Captain trailed the seven-horse field.
“(Speaker’s Corner) is a horse who we have always been very high on,” winning jockey Junior Alvarado told the New York Racing Association. “We figured out what he wants to do. He’s a very good miler. Today, we had a great trip, and he was there the whole way around. He was very much the best horse.
“He took the lead around the half-mile pole and after that, he was just doing his thing. He ran them off their feet early. He was traveling comfortably and was faster than the other horses. He gave me the same kick at seven-eighths as a mile. He’s on his ‘A’ game right now. He’ll be a tough horse this year.”
Trained by Bill Mott, Speaker’s Corner is a four-year-old son of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Street Sense out of Tyburn Brook, a daughter of Preakness S. (G1) hero Bernardini. His stout pedigree notwithstanding, Speaker’s Corner has found his niche competing in one-turn races, where he’s compiled a 6-for-7 resume. The Metropolitan H. (G1) at Belmont Park two months from now looms as a prestigious goal.
“We’ve got to put that on the list of things,” said Mott, referring to the Metropolitan. “That would be a prime target. We’ve squeezed him pretty good the way it is. We’ve come back five weeks, four weeks, so he’s had his races fairly close together already.”
Speaker’s Corner wasn’t the only impressive winner of the afternoon. Glass Ceiling couldn’t have been more dominant in the seven-furlong Distaff H. (G3) for fillies and mares, tracking splits of :22.98 and :45.98 set by longshot Kept Waiting before powering away to win by five lengths in 1:21.71. Odds-on favorite Search Results failed to fire while finishing 8 1/2 lengths behind Kept Waiting in third place, followed by Zaajel and Easy to Bless.
Glass Ceiling has been on a roll for trainer Charlton Baker, who owns the five-year-old daughter of Constitution in partnership with Michael S. Foster. Under the guidance of jockey Dylan Davis, Glass Ceiling has won four straight races dating back to December, including the Garland of Roses S. at Aqueduct and the Barbara Fritchie S. (G3) at Laurel Park.
“I watched her and she was on the muscle the whole time (in the post parade). But she’s just doing great and she’s on the muscle the same way in the barn going to the track,” Baker said. “It’s nothing new for me to see her like that. I wasn’t concerned. I was glad she was on her toes because I wanted her to get a good break and a good position. I didn’t know how the race was going to set up. I didn’t know if the one (Easy to Bless) was going to go or the five (Kept Waiting). I was hoping she broke good to get a fair trip.”
Baker indicated the Ballerina S. (G1) at Saratoga is the primary summer target for Glass Ceiling, with the June 10 Bed o’ Roses S. (G2) at Belmont Park serving as a potential prep run.
Bay Shore Stakes
In contrast to the blowout victories seen in the Carter and Distaff, the seven-furlong Bay Shore S. (G3) for three-year-olds produced a tight finish. Aqueduct debut winner Highly Respected seized a two-length lead in midstretch, but a last-minute surge from 2021 Sanford S. (G3) winner Wit proved sufficient to nab a nose victory in his 2022 debut.
Favored at 2-1, Wit reached the finish line in 1:23.27 under jockey Jose Ortiz. Highly Respected ran gallantly in defeat and pulled 4 1/2 lengths clear of third-place finisher Life Is Great, followed by Dean’s List, Scaramouche, Juggler, Fromanothamutha, and Outkissed.
Owned by the partnership of Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, and Gainesway Stable. Wit is a son of multiple Grade 1 winner Practical Joke. The Todd Pletcher trainee placed twice at the Grade 1 level as a juvenile and could certainly return to the Grade 1 ranks this spring, with the seven-furlong Woody Stephens S. (G1) at Belmont looking like a logical goal.
Danger’s Hour Stakes
The Carter, Distaff, and Bay Shore all took place on dirt, but the Aqueduct turf courses also saw use on Saturday. The main grass event was the Danger’s Hour S. conducted over one mile on the inner turf, in which City Man shrugged off a layoff to win convincingly under jockey Joel Rosario.
A stakes winner in 2019, 2020, and 2021, the five-year-old son of Mucho Macho Man kept his streak rolling by tracking the early tempo and then pouncing to victory by 2 1/4 lengths over Sanctuary. Next came Value Proposition, Therapist, It’s a Gamble, Price Talk, and Rinaldi. The final time over a good course was 1:37.58.
City Man is trained by Christophe Clement on behalf of Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Peter Searles, and Patty Searles.
“That’s what good horses do,” said Clement, referring to City Man’s successful run off the layoff. “He came back well from Florida where he had a little break. He shipped up here well in good shape and everything worked out. He’s always been a nice horse. He’s been at stakes level since he was a two-year-old.”
Racing continues on Sunday at Aqueduct with a nine-race card highlighted by the 1 1/8-mile Top Flight S. for fillies and mares. Post time for the opener is 1:20 p.m. ET.