There were times last year when I thought Mystic Guide had the potential to develop into one of the top 3-year-olds in the nation. It didn’t quite pan out for the son of Ghostzapper in 2020, but if his 4-year-old debut is any indication, it might this year.
Breaking from an outside post, Mystic Guide showed more tactical early speed than he did in much of his first season on the racetrack, while being ridden by Luis Saez for the first time.
Hung out wide on both turns, he stalked an honest early pace set by Hunka Burning Love and made his move on the far turn. Quickly advancing to the lead at the head of the stretch, the second choice in the field of seven ended any mystery to the outcome with a few impressive strides.
Wearing blinkers for the third consecutive race, Mystic Guide poured it on down the lane in the Grade 3 test to improve his lifetime record to 7: 3-2-2.
The final time of 1:44.33 for the 1 1/16 miles compares favorably to other stakes races on a racing surface which was not producing fast times. Champion Essential Quality, also a Godolphin homebred, needed more than a full second more to complete the same distance in impressively winning the Southwest Stakes a few races later on the card.
With the win, in which he earned a stout Beyer Speed Figure of 108, the well-bred colt trained by Mike Stidham seems poised for a big year. The son of the brilliant 2004 Horse of the Year is out of the five-time Grade 1 winner Music Note, an excellent daughter of the champion A.P. Indy.
When I mentioned that things didn't quite pan out for Mystic Guide last year, that was only in comparison to my very high expectations. Unraced at 2, and as a horse who still needed a little more time, he was kept out of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes of 2020.
Brought along a little more slowly, he ran into a few strong performances and collected a third in the Peter Pan Stakes (G3) at Saratoga last summer in his stakes debut. Blinkers were added for his next start, and things started to click.
On the same afternoon that Authentic won the Kentucky Derby, Mystic Guide scored in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga in relative anonymity.
He followed that Sept. 5 victory five weeks later with a strong second in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes at Belmont Park. After having skipped the entire Triple Crown series, Mystic Guide still managed to accomplish some solid performances in his first six career starts.
Given more time to develop, he remained a horse with major potential. Recording a series of sharp workouts at his winter base in New Orleans, his trainer chose to send him to Arkansas for his seasonal debut to avoid his highly regarded stablemate.
Unbeaten Maxfield easily took home the Mineshaft Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds and is now being pointed for this Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap (G1), and it looks like Godolphin now has two of the best older horses in the nation.
As for Mystic Guide, the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Razorback is probably well short of his ideal distance. He should only get better with further experience and added distance.
For now, either staying home for the $400,000 New Orleans Classic (G2) on March 20 or traveling overseas for the 25th edition of the $12 million Dubai World Cup on March 27 is being discussed for his next race.
The choice will be an interesting one, as this is a horse that has been handled with patience throughout and the fruits of that patience are beginning to pay off.
Whichever route is chosen, I am looking for a very big year for Mystic Guide, and one that should culminate in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 6 at Del Mar.