04/04/2013 3:03PM

Aqueduct: Carter gives Discreet Dancer shot at first Grade 1


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Unlike his younger stablemate Verrazano, Discreet Dancer was unable to successfully stretch out in distance after winning the first two starts of his career in one-turn races.

Undefeated in four starts around one turn, the now 4-year-old Discreet Dancer looks for his first Grade 1 victory in Saturday’s $400,000 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct.

Discreet Dancer takes on six rivals in the seven-furlong Carter, which will be run immediately preceding the $1 million Wood Memorial on the 12-race card. Discreet Dancer has been the workmate of Wood Memorial favorite Verrazano the last two weeks.

Discreet Dancer, a son of Discreet Cat and a half-brother to multiple-stakes-winning sprinter Travelin Man, finished third as the 4-5 favorite behind Union Rags in the 2012 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. In subsequent training, he was discovered to have a soft tissue injury and missed the remainder of his 3-year-old season.

Discreet Dancer returned on Feb. 6 at Gulfstream in a second-level allowance race at six furlongs and defeated Candyman  E, a horse who came back to win the Bensalem Stakes on March 12. On March 9, Discreet Dancer came back to win the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap by 5 1/4 lengths, a race in which Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned stumbled at the start, unseating his rider.

“I thought it was a huge race,” said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Discreet Dancer. “Due to Fort Larned’s bad luck, it probably took away from the performance that Discreet Dancer put forth. It was a pretty comfortable win for him. The Carter at seven furlongs is a good opportunity for him.”

In what will be his first start outside of Gulfstream Park, Discreet Dancer will break from the outside post in the seven-horse field.

“I love the post position he drew in the Carter, that’s helpful,” said Pletcher, who won the Carter in 2005 and 2006 with Forest Danger and Bishop Court Hill, respectively. “He doesn’t impress us as the kind of horse that has to have a particular surface. He’s obviously been successful at Gulf only because he hasn’t had an opportunity anywhere else.”

Nick Zito has won the last two runnings of the Carter with Morning Line (2011) and Jackson Bend (2012). Saturday, he’ll send out Fort Loudon, who won the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship at seven furlongs before finishing third to Discreet Dancer in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

“He’s a very solid horse, very consistent,” Zito said. “Seven-eighths I think is his best distance. He should run a big race.”

Breaking from post 2, Fort Loudon will likely have to use his speed away from the gate under Jose Lezcano.

The New York-bred Brigand, disqualified from second and placed fifth in the Grade 3 General George at Laurel in February, figures to keep Fort Loudon honest up front.

Saturday’s Charm and Sahara Sky would benefit from a contested pace.

Saturday’s Charm was beaten a nose by Comma to the Top in the Grade 3 Tom Fool. He is 2 for 2 at seven furlongs.

After winning a pair of Grade  2 stakes at Santa Anita, Sahara Sky has shipped in for the Carter for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. He was the beneficiary of a quick early pace in both those races and rallied from far back. Joel Rosario will ride.

“If he needs to lay a little closer on a slower pace, I think Joel will be able to figure that out,” Hollendorfer said. “That’s why he’s doing so well – he’s able to figure out where to be.”

Swagger Jack, second to Discreet Dancer and Fort Loudon in his last two starts, and Consortium complete the field.