With the Grade 3, $100,00 Peter Pan Stakes at Saratoga this Thursday, the race is now a two-turn route at nine furlongs instead of a one-turn affair at Belmont. Also, the Peter Pan has become an official points event on the Kentucky Derby trail, at least for this year.
The race is stuck in a tough spot though on the calendar because of Saturday's Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth. But it is still one bettors will enjoy.
Given the lack of a standout, the door is open for the inexperienced Mystic Guide to break out on the trail. Currently, he owns only three starts, with one maiden win and one runner-up finish in an allowance race. At first glance, that is not a great resume to accept in a trail race.
Still, his two races this year hint that he is moving forward.
On March 21 at Fair Grounds, Mystic Guide broke his maiden by five lengths over a field that became stronger on paper as time went on. The second-place Amani’s Eagle broke his maiden two starts later, while the third-place Verb and fourth-place Reprobate won their immediate next starts, backing up the quality of Mystic Guide's maiden victory.
Then, in the June 4 allowance race at Belmont, Mystic Guide traveled over the same 1 1/16-mile distance on the one-turn configuration.
After settling in fourth early, Mystic Guide offered some run around the turn. However, he moved in between horses and bumped around a bit. Country Grammer rallied on the outside with a clearer shot and took second for a few moments. But once Mystic Guide enjoyed a clear path in midstretch, he outkicked Country Grammer to the wire for second.
Mystic Guide “won” second by 1 1/2 lengths. Unfortunately, the speedy Tap It to Win ran away with an uncontested lead and won the race by five lengths. Watch how Mystic Guide finished, though. He did not threaten Tap It to Win, but he also had plenty of run left to offer.
Mystic Guide also earned a 108 TimeformUS Speed Figure, which is only one point less than Modernist’s career-best figure and equal to Candy Tycoon.
The only downside is trainer Michael Stidham, who is 0 for 10 over the past year at Saratoga. Given the stretchout to nine furlongs and the 109 figure, though, Mystic Guide is the choice. He is capable of moving forward at the longer distance and becoming a player in this division.
As for Modernist, he is an obvious choice, even with the Belmont flop.
Back in January, Modernist broke his maiden at nine furlongs at Aqueduct.
One month later, Modernist took the second division of the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds, also at nine furlongs, by a length over Major Fed and Ny Traffic in third.
Afterward, a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2) hampered Modernist's momentum. Because the speedy Wells Bayou led the field uncontested though through a moderate pace, the loss gets a pass.
Then came the Belmont Stakes. Modernist initially settled around mid-pack. At one point in the running line, he reached fifth, only four lengths behind the leader. But after that small move forward, Modernist offered nothing on the turn and finished seventh, 20 1/2 lengths behind.
Off a 91-day break, it is fair to assume Modernist entered the Belmont less than 100 percent. Perhaps trainer Bill Mott misread the colt and thought Modernist was ready to tackle the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Modernist's class is too good relative to this field to ignore.
Those are the main two options.
Caracaro comes close as a firm selection off his six-length Gulfstream maiden win in January, where TimeformUS gave him a 106 figure.
A 106 is a lower number than the best numbers by Mystic Guide or Modernist, but consider that Caracaro ran the number in January in only his second career start. It is entirely plausible he moves forward now.
The 187-day layoff for Caracaro is a major concern. Given the nine-furlong distance and the layoff, it is fair to use some caution before trusting him. But Caracaro does fit as a B or C option, if included at all.
Move up Celtic Striker only if Caracaro scratches. His recent match race win is notable because he earned a 109 on TimeformUS, and that is competitive with the best horses in the race. Otherwise, Caracaro’s outside speed is supposed to weaken Celtic Striker.
Country Grammer, Candy Tycoon and Chestertown are usable for the underneath positions. Any of those three horses can close in the stretch.
Will Mystic Guide get the right pace and trip? Those are two questions for any mid-pack or closer type to answer, especially a runner as inexperienced as he is. Nevertheless, the value balances out those questions.
Mystic Guide and Modernist are the top choices in this analysis, and one of them figures to carve out the right trip and win. Rely on both names.
|Rank||Silks||Horse / Sire||Rating||Trainer / Jockey||Last Start||Status|
I. Ortiz, Jr.
R. Santana, Jr.