G.R. Carter, Jr., the jockey for nearly 3,500 winners in horse races worth more than $62 million, had a pair of million-dollar opportunities Labor Day Weekend at Riudoso Downs in New Mexico.
Racing fortune, however, failed to find the Pawhuska native in the winner’s circle for either the $2.8-million All American Derby on Sunday or the $2.6-million All American Futurity, which was run Monday before a track record crowd of 24,588.
In the Futurity — considered the Kentucky Derby of American Quarter Horse racing — Carter finished in the middle of the 10-horse field aboard Skuze Pleeze, a 2-year-old bay gelding trained by a Tana Pace and owned by Joe L. Mills of Broken Arrow.
A month ago, Skuze Pleeze had placed second under Carter in his Futurity trial race, losing to the fastest of the qualifiers — Wagon Tales, who finished third on Monday behind late-charging Reagal Eagle and the 8-to-1 winner, Handsome Jack Flash.
Carter is a two-time winner of the Futurity, taking first in 1998 on Falling in Love Again and repeating the feat a decade later when he took the 2008 title aboard world champion Stolis Winner. In 1997, he also claimed the All American Derby for 3-year-olds.
In Sunday’s All American Derby, Carter finished eighth on a filly named Louisana Corona, who went to the gate as the seventh-fastest qualifier in the history of race. Wicked Courage, the even-money Derby favorite, managed only a seventh-place finish.
It ended up being the slowest qualifier in the field of 3-year-olds that won Quarter Horse racing’s richest event, however. Feature Hero, an Oklahoma-bred black gelding, dashed first across the wire as a 22-to-1 longshot.
Less than two months ago, the Riudoso track was scene of another major achievement for Carter — who already is the sport’s all-time leading money-winning jockey. At the New Mexico track on July 6, the 45-year-old also surpassed the previous record for most mounts in American Quarter Horse Racing Association history when he rode the 22,294th horse of his career.
Last year, Carter was named the AQHA World Champion Jockey for a record 10th time. Whereas no one else has ever won the honor more than five times, the 1986 Pawhuska High School graduate claimed six titles in a row from 2003 to 2008.