Given a perfectly timed ride by Irad Ortiz, Jr., Swagger Jack reaped the benefits of a hot pace and got the jump on a fast-closing Sahara Sky to win the 113th running of the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap for older sprinters on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Swagger Jack bided his time in fifth as Consortium, Brigand, and Fort Loudon vied for early supremacy. Discreet Dancer, the even-money favorite, made it a four-way battle as the field passed the five-sixteenths pole, while Swagger Jack began to inch his way closer to the front runners.
Ortiz took Swagger Jack outside at the top of the lane, and the 5-year-old shot past the enervated pacesetters in midstretch. Sahara Sky, the second choice, simultaneously uncoiled a furious rally from last, but the wire came in time for Swagger Jack, who held on to win by three-quarters of a length. Discreet Dancer finished an additional length behind in third.
Swagger Jack, at 15-1 the second longest shot in the field of six, paid $33.60. His final time for seven furlongs was 1:21.44.
“I just tried to follow the instructions [trainer Marty Wolfson] told me,” said Ortiz. “Everything he told me happened in the race. He told me to break four, five lengths behind the speed and let the speed go. Maybe three horses had speed and I was sitting behind them. At the three-eighths pole, that horse loves to go, so that’s what I did, and he started to pick them up pretty quick. It feels great.”
Swagger Jack won a pair of optional claimers at Gulfstream Park in December and January, then was second by a half-length in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship in February after a tardy start. He was second, beaten 5 ¼ lengths by Discreet Dancer, in his most recent start, the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 9.
“I was very confident in this horse,” said Wolfson of Swagger Jack’s chances of turning the tables in the Carter. “He should have won the Gulfstream Sprint Championship, but he got left at the start. And then in his last race, Fort Larned stumbled at the start and Discreet Dancer was left alone on the lead. I was confident there was enough speed in today’s race that he’d be able to make a run.”
Owned by Tom Hamilton’s Silverton Hill Farm, Swagger Jack improved his record to 5-3-0 in 16 starts. The $240,000 winner’s share of the Carter more than doubled his earnings to $451,769.
Fort Loudon was fourth, followed home by Consortium and Brigand. Saturday’s Charm was scratched.