The juggernaut that is the Todd Pletcher stable, victorious in five graded stakes last weekend, will be no less prominent on Wood Memorial Day at Aqueduct on Saturday. In addition to having the likely favorites in the three-year-old features, Pletcher will also saddle another probable choice, Discreet Dancer, in the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap at seven furlongs.
A Discreet Cat colt whose classic aspirations were halted following a third in last year's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, Discreet Dancer immediately returned to his winning ways February 6 when taking a six-furlong allowance at Gulfstream by a neck following a layoff of more than 11 months. Last time, the four-year-old romped by 5 1/4 lengths over returning rivals Swagger Jack and Fort Loudon in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap over a mile.
CARTER HANDICAP DRAW
Perhaps benefiting to a significant extent from the fact Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic hero Fort Larned lost his rider at the start of the Gulfstream Park Handicap, Discreet Dancer might find the situation more challenging in the Carter, which marks the colt's first race outside Gulfstream in five starts.
Invading from the west is Sahara Sky, who ripped off two come-from-behind victories over the winter at Santa Anita in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes and Grade 2 San Carlos, the latter at seven furlongs. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee might need help, however, as the pace of the Carter may not match the beneficial fractions that aided the five-year-old previously.
Likely front runners include multiple stakes winner Brigand, who was demoted from second to fifth in the Grade 3 General George Handicap last time due to interference, and the aforementioned Fort Loudon, a multiple Grade 3 winner who set a moderate early pace in the Gulfstream Park Handicap before fading to third.
In addition to Swagger Jack, runner-up in the Gulfstream Park and Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship in his last two, Saturday's Charm might step up off a nose loss in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap.
The top three finishers from the February 16 Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap -- Funnys Approval, My Wandy's Girl and Withgreatpleasure -- will square off again in the Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian Handicap over a mile. Funnys Approval enters on a four-race win streak, but former Puerto Rican star My Wandy's Girl might have the upper hand this time returning to a track where she captured the Pentelis and placed in the Grade 1 Gazelle last autumn.
Another major player in the six-horse Ruffian is Twice the Lady, who took the January 26 Affectionately by two lengths and finished second in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap last time.
The Grade 3, $250,000 Bay Shore, a seven-furlong dash won last year by eventual champion sprinter Trinniberg, drew a crack field of nine three-year-olds, including the leading sprint stakes winners from the Gulfstream and Aqueduct winter meets. Grade 2 Hutcheson hero Honorable Dillon, Grade 3 Swale victor Clearly Now, Jimmy Winkfield star Clawback and Fred "Cappy" Capossela winner Maleeh all look competitive, and are joined by the Nick Zito-trained Declan's Warrior, a Gulfstream allowance winner, and California invader Salutos Amigos.