02/20/2002 12:00AM

Wrangler targets Carter next


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Wrangler, winner of Monday's Grade 2 General George Handicap at Laurel Park, will aim for his first Grade 1 victory when he makes his next start in the $350,000 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct on April 13, trainer Jimmy Jerkens said.

Jerkens said *, who earned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure Monday, appeared to come out of the race in good order. It was Wrangler's first victory at seven furlongs, making what will be a 53-day gap between races easier for Jerkens to digest.

The Carter, run over Aqueduct's main track, is also contested at seven furlongs.

"It's a little long in between races, especially with a horse that's tough to train, but at least he's got the seven furlongs under his belt. That's got to mean something," Jerkens said.

While Wrangler has been a handful in the mornings, he had behaved in the afternoon in his first two starts for Jerkens. That made for a few anxious moments Monday when Wrangler had to be prompted by jockey Aaron Gryder and Laurel's outriders to leave the post parade and head for the starting gate.

"It's frustrating to deal with," said Jerkens, who is 3 for 3 with Wrangler since the colt came to his barn last month. "The other day, I was nervous because it was the first time he had done something like that in the afternoon. The sun was right smack in their faces; he stopped a thousand times walking up [to the paddock] too."

Jerkens said Voodoo, who finished fifth in the General George, would most likely run back in the $100,000 Toboggan Handicap over Aqueduct's main track on March 16.

Jerkens said he was somewhat surprised that Voodoo did not show more speed than he did considering he hadn't run since November. Voodoo got hung out wide before finishing evenly and was beaten seven lengths.

New York-breds tackle Best Turn

White Ibis and Eye of the Comet, a pair of New York-breds who combined to win four juvenile stakes last year, will take on open company in Saturday's $75,000 Best Turn Stakes at six furlongs.

After two unsuccessful attempts around two turns, White Ibis should appreciate cutting back to a sprint in the Best Turn. A son of Distinctive Pro, White Ibis won the New York Stallion Stakes, the Bertram F. Bongard, and the Sleepy Hollow, ranging in distance from six furlongs to a mile.

In his first start around two turns, White Ibis stumbled at the break and though he reached contention, he backed up to fifth, 14 lengths behind upset winner Eye of the Comet.

Trainer Richard DeStasio gave White Ibis one more try at a route, but the horse again finished fifth, 10 1/4 lengths back in the Count Fleet. Jockey Robbie Davis told DeStasio that White Ibis may have held his breath or displaced his palate during the race. DeStasio has since equipped White Ibis with a tongue-tie.

"He thought he might have held his breath because he didn't finish as well as thought because he thought he had some horse," DeStasio said.

White Ibis has put in two good works with the tongue-tie, including a bullet three-furlong move in 36.25 seconds on Tuesday.

While White Ibis should relish the cutback in distance, Eye of the Comet may find it inhibiting. After some troubled trips in sprint stakes, Eye of the Comet charged from last to first for a 6 3/4-length victory in the Damon Runyon Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 16.

Eye of the Comet was given a month freshening and he wasn't ready for the Count Fleet or Whirlaway Stakes, trainer Sal Iorio said. Iorio, who was aboard for the colt's three-furlong move in 36.72 seconds Wednesday morning, is hoping to use the Best Turn as a springboard to next month's Gotham Stakes.

A field of nine is expected for the Best Turn. Also scheduled to run are Cool Cash, Double My Prospect, Final Table, President Butler, Smooth Jazz, Tank's Expectation, and War Native.

Englander could take Friday feature

Richard Englander, fresh off receiving his Eclipse Award Monday night for outstanding owner of 2001, could see his good fortune continue Friday at Aqueduct when his 5-year-old horse Four Alert heads the featured third-level allowance race. Englander will also be represented by Le Beaucet.

In his last start, a $60,000 claiming race, Four Alert dueled with The Cool Grape for a half-mile before being engaged by Mike's Thunder, who prevailed by a neck over Four Alert after a long drive. Friday, Four Alert may be better served by sitting off what looks to be a hotly contested pace with Danthedealmaker and Classic Endeavor in the field.

First Journey could offer value as he stretches out to his preferred distance after finishing fifth behind Arromanches in a sprint claiming event on Feb. 2. That was his first start in almost nine months. Iron Chancellor gets Lasix for the first time and could be another live longshot as he is 3 for 6 over the inner track.

* Ground Storm, prepping for the Stymie Handicap on March 9, worked five furlongs in 1:02.37 Wednesday morning over Belmont's training track.

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