OZONE PARK, N.Y. — After his winning ride aboard My Miss Lilly in the Gazelle, the peripatetic Joe Bravo climbed aboard a race horse with the unlikely name of Army Mule and galloped home a winner in Aqueduct's $400,000, Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 7.

Bravo, who has won Grade 1 races at almost every major race track in North America, added another to his trophy case when the Pennsylvania-bred Army Mule, a 4-year-old son of Friesan Fire from the Crafty Prospector mare Crafty Toast, defeated 10 rivals in the 118th running of the seven-furlong sprint. The St. Elias Stable color bearer won by a handy 6-1/4 lengths getting seven furlongs in 1:20.94.

Live Oak Plantation's Awesome Slew took second money. Bruce Golden and David Jaconson's Great Stuff was third.

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The win was Army Mule’s third straight and earned him a long look at the $1.2 million, Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park on June 9. Mega-trainer Todd Pletcher: “The way he finished today at seven-eighths, a race like the Met Mile would certainly make sense and be on the radar.”

Pletcher's concern was, “It was only his third race. He was giving a lot of seasoning to some other horses. But, he showed he deserved a chance.” The trainer said he was also concerned drawing the 2-hole in a full field. But, he broke well and put Joe in that spot. It was just a matter of Joe finding a seam.”

Bravo followed Pletcher's thinking saying, “He was able to jump through that hole and go through there because that's what good horses do.”

The Excelsior...

After stumbling at the start, Discreet Lover came from last to first to win the 106th running of the Excelsior Stakes for 4-year-olds and up at a mile and furlong on the Aqueduct's main track to give owner and trainer Uriah St. Lewis his first Grade 1 win.

With Manny Franco taking over for the late Jose Flores, the 5-year-old horse mounted his challenge at the head of the stretch. He and Franco edged clear a 16th of a mile out and got home to win by 2-1/2 lengths over Zanotti and Paco Lopez. Harlan Punch and Dylan Davis were a neck back in third place.

Discreet Lover ran the mile and a furlong in 1:50:45 on fast track for his sixth win from 37 starts. He went into the race with over a half million dollars in purse earnings and came out with $630,860 — a hefty bonus over the $10,000 owner-trainer St. Lewis paid for him at a sale in Timonium, Md.

Franco was pleased with Discreet Lover's recovery saying, “When he stumbled, I said, 'Well,I've got to use Plan B—take back wait as long as I can.' As soon as I tapped him on the shoulder, he picked them up.”

The Bay Shore...

National Flag survived a severe bumping incident and, benefiting from a patient ride by jockey Flavian Prat, went on to win the $250,000, Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes by four lengths for Todd Pletcher's second graded stakes win of the afternoon, It was the colt's second straight and his first in graded stakes company.

Racing for WinStar Farm, the China Horse Club and SF Racing, the Kentucky-bred son of Speightstown from Date to Remember defeated six rivals getting the seven furlong distance in 1:23.16 over a fast track.

When asked of longer distances are in the colt's future, Pletcher said, “Let's stick with what he knows. At some point down the road, we might stretch him out. We'll probably look for a one turn mile or something like that. We'll play it by ear and see how he comes out of this.”

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