August 15, 2020

Two turns could benefit Modernist, Mystic Guide in Peter Pan

Modernist wins the second Risen Star division at Fair Grounds
Modernist wins the second Risen Star division at Fair Grounds (Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.)

A no-show off a three-month break in the June 20 Belmont Stakes (G1), Modernist will look to right his Kentucky Derby (G1) prospects this week, possibly in Thursday’s $100,000 Peter Pan Stakes (G3) on opening day of the Saratoga meet.

Normally a prep for the Belmont Stakes itself, the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan has been transferred upstate this season due to the COVID-19 fallout and will offer Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to the top four finishers.

Trained by Bill Mott, Modernist captured a division of the Risen Star (G2) in February and then ran third in the Louisiana Derby (G2) before the pandemic forced many horsemen to sit tight with their Derby prospects in the spring, especially after the Derby’s announced postponement to September.

Reappearing in a shorter Belmont over 1 1/8 miles on June 20, Modernist made no impact in finishing seventh of 10, more than 20 lengths behind Tiz the Law as a 23-1 longshot. The son of Uncle Mo is also under consideration for Saturday’s more lucrative Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park.

“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 jockey Junior 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.”

The regally-bred Godolphin homebred Mystic Guide finished a distant second in his first allowance try at Belmont over 1 1/16 miles in early June, but also could benefit from a return to two-turn racing. The son of Ghostzapper is out of multiple Grade 1 winner Music Note.

“Our horse is more of a two-turn, mile and an eighth type horse than a one-turn horse,” said trainer Mike 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.”

Not far behind Mystic Guide in that June 4 allowance was Country Grammer, fifth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) in his only previous stakes attempt for trainer Chad Brown. Fountain of Youth runner-up Candy Tycoon has subsequently run sixth in the Florida Derby (G1) and second in an allowance won by subsequent Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Blue Grass (G2) third Rushie.

In addition to Modernist, other sons of Uncle Mo of note in the Peter Pan lineup include Caracaro, a dominant six-length maiden winner at Gulfstream when last seen in January, and recent Indiana turf allowance scorer Mo Hawk.

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The co-feature on Thursday is the $100,000 Schuylerville Stakes (G3), a 6-furlong test for 2-year-old fillies.

Beautiful Memories, a 10-length debut winner at Churchill Downs in late May for Mark Casse, and Hopeful Princess, a narrower graduate at the same meet one week earlier for Steve Asmussen, are the probable betting choices.

“We broke her and had her down at the training center all winter and she seemed special,” said Casse of Beautiful Memories. “I told (owner John) Oxley when I breezed her that she gave me chills and that doesn’t happen often.”

Beautiful Memories descends from Oxley’s 1999 champion older mare Beautiful Pleasure.