Updated on 09/17/2011 10:17AM

Congaree impressive in Carter

Congaree ($3.60) is 3 1/2 lengths clear of Aldebaran at the wire in Saturday's Grade 1, $350,000 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct on Saturday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Congaree saved the day for trainer Bob Baffert with an impressive 3 1/2-length win in the $350,000 at Aqueduct Saturday.

Two races before the Grade 1 Carter, Baffert saddled the losing favorite in the Bay Shore, During, who finished seventh. In the next race, the Wood Memorial, the Baffert-trained Senor Swinger finished a well-beaten fifth.

Congaree, owned by Stonerside Stable, once again showed his affinity for the Aqueduct surface, where he had won the 2001 Wood Memorial and last year's Cigar Mile. The one mystery surrounding Congaree was how he would fare at seven furlongs, a distance he had yet to run before the Carter.

Congaree answered that question emphatically.

Under Gary Stevens, Congaree engaged Affirmed Success, last year's Carter winner, down the backstretch. The pair raced together through an opening quarter-mile in 22.90 seconds over the muddy track. After a half-mile in 45.51, Congaree, the 4-5 favorite, was on the move and opening up on the field.

Congaree didn't encounter any serious threats during the stretch run. He was kept to the task with mild encouragement from Stevens.

Aldebaran, the second choice, finished second after trailing the field for a half-mile. Peeping Tom, the 2001 Carter winner, finished third, beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Aldebaran. Papua and Affirmed Success completed the order of finish.

Congaree, who carried 122 pounds as the highweight, covered the distance in 1:21.48. The stakes and track record of 1:20 was set by Artax in 1999.

"[Baffert] made it very clear that he wanted [Congaree] on the early lead," Stevens said. "He was the class of the race. He likes this track and has plenty of natural speed."

Congaree returned $3.60 and created a minus show pool of $14,290.

"Congaree is just a classy horse; he was more impressive than [Wood Memorial winner] Empire Maker," Baffert said. "I just hope I didn't mess up his mind sprinting, but he is a pretty smart horse."

Baffert said he wasn't pointing Congaree, a 5-year-old son of Arazi, to any specific race, but mentioned the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park May 26 as a race that will be considered.

This year, Congaree also won the San Pasqual and San Antonio handicaps at Santa Anita and was second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap at 1 1/4 miles.

Halo Homewrecker takes Bay Shore

Halo Homewrecker continued his development into one of the better 3-year-old sprinters Saturday by wearing down Don Six in the final 70 yards to win the Grade 3, $150,000 by one length.

Don Six, who set the early pace, held second, 5 1/4 lengths ahead of Stanislavsky. Fifth of Hennessy, Infinite Justice, Midnight Charlie, During, Deadline, and Second in Command completed the order of finish. Special Rate and Gators N Bears were eased.

It was the third straight victory for Halo Homewrecker, a son of Southern Halo and half-brother to Grade 1 stakes winner Yonaguska. He is owned and bred by Edward Evans and trained by Mark Hennig.

Halo Homewrecker, who had won two straight races at Gulfstream Park, showed good speed out of the gate, but John Velazquez was able to take him just off the pace while Don Six, under Aaron Gryder, outsprinted several horses to the lead and set fractions of 21.88 seconds and 44.68.

Halo Homewrecker moved into third around the turn, passing Second in Command in upper stretch, and came after Don Six inside the furlong marker. Halo Homewrecker covered the seven furlongs in 1:23.19 over a muddy track and returned $9.60 as the second choice.

"I didn't intend for him to be part of the pace when I left the house this morning," Hennig said. "After watching a few races I told Johnny he is quick enough if you want to use it, which you may want to. It looked like a mad scramble for the lead; as it turned out he ended up sitting off it for awhile once he got snuffed out of there."

Gary Stevens, the jockey of 2-1 favorite During, said his horse was struggling over the muddy track.

Hennig said Halo Homewrecker could return in the $150,000 Withers Stakes at Belmont May 3.

- additional reporting by David Grening