OTB Race Previews
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Grade 2-winner Modernist will headline the 66th renewal of the Grade 3, $100,000 Peter Pan Stakes, a nine-furlong test for sophomores at Saratoga Race Course on Thursday, July 16, Opening Day of the summer meet.
The 2020 Saratoga summer meet will begin on Thursday, July 16 and run through Labor Day, Monday, September 7. Following the four-day opening weekend, live racing will be conducted five days a week, Wednesdays through Sundays. The summer meet will conclude on Labor Day, Monday, September 7.
Under current New York State guidelines, Saratoga will open without spectators in attendance. The 40-day meet will be highlighted by the 151st renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million Travers Stakes on Saturday, August 8 and the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney on Saturday, August 1.
Race 9 at Saratoga on Thursday, July 16 - Post 5:46 PM
|1||Mo Hawk||20-1||Joel Rosario
|2||Country Grammer||7-2||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|4||Celtic Striker||12-1||Manuel Franco
|5||Candy Tycoon||5-1||John Velazquez
|6||Mystic Guide||5-2||Jose Ortiz
|8||Chestertown||10-1||Ricardo Santana, Jr.
Last out, with jockey Junior Alvarado up, Modernist was brushed at the start and failed to fire when off-the-board in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.
"A mile and an eighth is a good distance for him, but I think last time only going one turn he was a little confused and he was switching his leads back and forth in the race," said Alvarado. "I think that threw him off his game. Going back to two turns and a little bit of an easier group this time, he should be very competitive."
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Modernist graduated in January at the Big A and followed up with a prominent score from the inside post in a division of the Grade 2 Risen Star in February at Fair Grounds. The dark bay Uncle Mo colt, a Kentucky homebred, exited the outside post in the 14-horse Grade 2 Louisiana Derby in March at Fair Grounds en route to a solid third.
Modernist breezed a half-mile in 49.34 seconds on July 5 on Belmont's dirt training track in preparation for the Peter Pan, which is traditionally run at Belmont as a key prep race for the Belmont Stakes.
Alvarado said a return to a more prominent running style that was effective at Fair Grounds is likely in the cards on Thursday for Modernist.
"I think he likes when you're aggressive with him and he gets to sit one-two and be more of a game horse," said Alvarado. "He gives you more of a fight when he's near the lead. I'm hoping we can get him back in the form he showed at Fair Grounds."
This year's renewal of the Peter Pan will offer 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers. Modernist is currently sixth on the leaderboard with 70 points.
Alvarado will guide Modernist from post 3.
Mystic Guide (Godolphin), a Ghostzapper chestnut out of multiple Group 1-winner Music Note, will make his stakes debut for trainer Mike Stidham.
Mystic Guide made his first two starts at Fair Grounds, including a debut third in a six-furlong sprint in February ahead of a five-length maiden score when travelling 1 1/16-miles on March 21.
He finished a closing second last out in a June 4 Belmont allowance contest at 1 1/16-miles won by Tap It to Win, who exited that effort to run fifth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.
Stidham said the lightly raced colt, who earned a career-best 89 Beyer Speed Figure at Belmont, will appreciate the stretch out in distance in his first start at Saratoga.
"We knew going in we were at a little disadvantage. Our horse is more of a two-turn, mile and an eighth type horse than a one-turn horse," said Stidham. "The horse that won stole away on the lead and we kicked in late. We were making up ground at the end and he galloped out real big.
"We were pleased with his effort given that a one-turn mile and a sixteenth isn't really his cup of tea," added Stidham. "I think the extra distance gives him a better chance. He doesn't come from too far back, but he has a good run when he kicks into gear and I think the Saratoga course will suit him well finishing how he does."
The improving colt breezed a half-mile solo in 48.80 on the Fair Hill dirt Saturday in preparation for his second start off the layoff.
"The track was wet but he got over it well and handled it well," said Stidham. "He went real comfortable with a good gallop out. I was very pleased with the work."
Jose Ortiz will ride Mystic Guide for the first time from post 6.
"Jose rides Saratoga well and we we're looking to have a top rider that knows the course," said Stidham.
Todd Pletcher will saddle Candy Tycoon (Mathis Stables) as the bay son of Twirling Candy makes a return to graded-stakes action. Last out, Candy Tycoon finished second in a May 2 optional-claiming tilt at Oaklawn Park won by Rushie, who came back to finish third in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby with a 97 Beyer.
A maiden winner in January at Gulfstream Park, Candy Tycoon was second in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in February and a troubled sixth in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, both at the Hallandale oval.
Candy Tycoon will exit post 5 under Hall of Famer John Velazquez, a two-time Peter Pan winner.
Imperial Racing's Celtic Striker, a bay son of Congrats purchased for $100,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, will aim for a first graded-stakes win.
Trained by Ray Handal and bred in Kentucky by Stoneview Farm and Craig D. Upham, Celtic Striker was a frontrunning 19 3/4-length winner last out on June 25 at Belmont in the 1 1/16-mile Easy Goer, which was reduced via scratches to a match race with Sonneman.
Manny Franco will retain the mount on the three-time winner from post 4.
Global Thoroughbred and Top Racing's Caracaro earned a lofty 92 Beyer when graduating at second asking on January 11 in a Gulfstream Park maiden. Trained by Gustavo Delgado, the Uncle Mo bay was a $95,000 purchase at the 2017 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.
He has trained at Gulfstream Park West for his return to action and will be piloted by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano from post 7.
Paul Pompa, Jr.'s Country Grammer, a Tonalist bay trained by four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown, graduated at second asking in a nine-furlong maiden tilt at the Big A. Country Grammer lost his footing at the start of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth where he made a wide bid for fifth. Last out, off a more than three-month layoff, he finished third behind Tapit It to Win and Peter Pan-rival Mystic Guide in the June 4 allowance tilt at Belmont.
Country Grammer will emerge from post 2 under Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Rounding out the field are Mo Hawk, a $925,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase trained by Rodolphe Brissett and to be piloted by Joel Rosario from the inside post ; New York-bred Chestertown, a $2 million purchase at the March 2019 OBS 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, will exit post 8 under Ricardo Santana, Jr.; and Katazarelli, a two-time winner, will leave post 9 under Dylan Davis for trainer Tom Amoss.
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