Speaker’s Corner leads four graded winners for Godolphin

Godolphin bloodstock director Michael Banahan was all smiles at Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s Belmont stable on April 10, the day after the world-class racing and breeding operation captured two of the five graded stakes slated at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Speaker’s Corner registered a career-best 114 Beyer Speed ​​Figure in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap – the highest number recorded by a thoroughbred so far this year – when drawing clear to a 4 1/2-length victory. The astonishing effort will likely warrant a start in the Grade 1, $1 million Metropolitan Handicap on June 10 at Belmont Park, which offers a Breeders’ Cup “Win ​​and You’re In” berth to the Dirt Mile.

Click here for Aqueduct entries and results.

Speaker’s Corner stepped up to a rigorous task in the Carter, where he faced six other last-out winners, including graded stakes winners Mind Control, Green Light Go and First Captain.

“It was a very competitive field. We had a lot of confidence going into it, but for him to step up and do it was great,” Banahan said. “Each race he’s gone from Grade 3, to Grade 2, to Grade 1. He seems like he takes things in stride very well. Each one has been as relatively easy a win as the previous race.

“It gives us confidence going forward that he can step up again. Hopefully, we see him here on Belmont Stakes Day. It’s a stallion making race, so hopefully he stays in good shape and continues to be in the condition that he’s in at the moment. We’ll go in there optimism.”

Speaker’s Corner, by Street Sense, is unbeaten in three starts this year, entering the seven-furlong Carter off a pair of one-turn graded stakes victories at Gulfstream Park in the Fred W. Hooper (G3) on January 29 and the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) on March 5.

On April 9 Mott and Godolphin also combined to win the Gazelle (G3), a nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies with Nostalgic, who made a bold move up the rail to collar pacesetting favorite Venti Valentine for a 1 1/4-length score. The Medaglia d’Oro sophomore filly earned 100 points toward the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

Banahan and Mott assistant Leana Willaford said both Speaker’s Corner and Nostalgic exited Saturday’s test in good order.

“Both horses came out of the race really well, jogged up sound,” said Banahan. “Leana said they were in great shape and looked great in the stall. It hasn’t taken too much out of them, especially Speaker’s Corner. It looks like he did it quite easily yesterday.”

Godolphin won a memorable edition of the 2016 Met Mile when Frosted earned the biggest winning-margin in the race’s history, scoring by 14 1/2 lengths and recording a 123 Beyer.

Banahan said he was pleased with Speaker’s Corner’s eye-popping speed figure.

“It’s nice to get that affirmation on a number that reflected what we saw on the racetrack from a visual standpoint against a contentious enough field,” Banahan said.

Speaker’s Corner touted himself as a juvenile, besting eventual stakes winners Caddo River, Greatest Honor and Miles D at second asking in a Belmont maiden in October 2020. Sidelined for ten months, he returned to action with flying colors at Saratoga, defeating winners going seven furlongs to record a 101 Beyer – his first of six triple digit speed figures.

“He’s always been a nice looking horse since he was a foal and continues to be a good looking horse today,” Banahan said. “He has a great pedigree, so it was vital to win a Grade 1. From a stallion perspective, it means everything. For him to step up and do that, we have a spot for him in the stallion barn. Running the Beyers he’s been running since he was a younger horse to what we ran yesterday would indicate that he’s one of the better horses in the country. People love to breed to millers.”

Godolphin enjoyed a banner year in 2021, earning Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder while winning high profile races with dual champion Essential Quality and Maxfield as well as three Breeders’ Cup races.

While Essential Quality and Maxfield closed the curtain on their prominent careers, Banahan said Speaker’s Corner appears to be filling the void quite well.

“He’s sort of stepped into the role that Essential Quality and Maxfield were at last year,” Banahan said. “Having another Grade 1-winning colt from the same crop as Essential Quality is very special. We’ve been blessed so hopefully it continues on. If he can continue on and have a great year, I don’t know about stretching him out.

“When a horse is that good doing what he’s doing, it’s best to keep him where he is and there’s plenty of opportunity through the year for him. We won’t get ahead of ourselves but it’s just exciting to have him in the barn.”

A Kentucky homebred, Speaker’s Corner is the first foal out of the unraced Bernardini mare Tyburn Brook, whose dam is 2006 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Round Pond.

Nostalgic provided Godolphin with their fifth Gazelle conquest, previously winning with Dance Card (2012), Flashing (2009), Music Note (2008) and Imperial Gesture (2002).

Banahan expressed a sense of cautious optimism heading into the Kentucky Oaks, where she will face undefeated fillies Echo Zulu, the 2021 champion 2-year-old filly, and Kathleen O.

“Yesterday was vitally important for the filly to win at the graded level. Ater she was able to do that, we can swing at the fences a little bit,” Banahan said. “It looks like extra distance won’t harm her in any way. A little pace in the race would suit her as well. She was brave yesterday; she had to go through a pretty tight hole down the stretch. She didn’t have much room, but she had plenty left in the tank and she was willing enough and brave enough to do that as well.

“Obviously, she has to step up again. The Oaks field looks as deep as it has been in many years,” Banahan added. “She deserves her chance to win there and see how she stacks up against some of the best fillies in the country.”

Prevalence gave Godolphin a victory in the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland on April 9. Later that day, Javanica earned graded stakes black type for the third time in Santa Anita’s Royal Heroine (G2).

“It was a super day all around, both at Aqueduct and Keeneland yesterday as well,” Banahan said. “To win three graded races and get a graded placing at Santa Anita made for a super day.”

April 10, Godolphin raised their graded stakes tally on the weekend to four when Matareya drew off to an easy victory in the Beaumont (G3) at Keeneland.

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