September 29, 2020

Mystic Guide adds blinkers, rolls home in Jim Dandy

Mystic Guide
Mystic Guide wins the Jim Dandy Stakes (Coglianese Photos/Joe Labozzetta)

The addition of blinkers made all the difference for Mystic Guide in Saturday’s $150,000 Jim Dandy (G2), as the beautifully-bred colt rallied resolutely down the Saratoga homestretch to secure his first graded stakes win.

A son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, Mystic Guide was produced by the A. P. Indy mare Music Note, a five-time Grade 1 winner over distances ranging from 7 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. Mystic Guide has clearly inherited the most long-winded of Music Note’s genes, as the Godolphin homebred is progressing into a relentless router under the care of Michael Stidham.

Half a dozen horses entered the Saratoga starting gate for the Jim Dandy, a 1 1/8-mile race delayed from its usual date in late July due to the effects of COVID-19. Normally a prep for Saratoga’s Travers (G1), but now serving as a steppingstone toward the Oct. 3 Preakness (G1), the Jim Dandy attracted a quality field led by Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up Dr Post.

Bettors were quick to embrace Dr Post, favoring the son of Quality Road at 3-4 off a third-place effort in the July 18 Haskell (G1). Dr Post had been under consideration for a start in the Kentucky Derby (G1) until trainer Todd Pletcher opted for the easier Jim Dandy, a decision that surely attracted wagering support.

But Dr Post failed to fire as expected. After settling in fourth place, racing wide behind modest splits of :23.37, :47.61, and 1:11.42, Dr Post drifted wide off the final turn and came up empty in the drive, weakening to finish fourth.

In the meantime, Mystic Guide was busy threading his way to victory. Coming off a late-rallying third in Saratoga’s Peter Pan (G3), the stretch-running chestnut was content to trail early under Jose Ortiz, then advanced between rivals approaching the far turn. Slipping inside of Dr Post, Mystic Guide briefly waited in traffic before shifting out for a clear run down the homestretch.

Up front, Jesus’ Team had gotten first run on the pacesetting longshots Celtic Striker and First Line, forging to a narrow advantage. But Mystic Guide always had the leader measured, producing a much stronger rally than the belated move he showcased in the Peter Pan. Down the lane, Mystic Guide gradually edged clear before stemming off a late challenge from Liveyourbeastlife to prevail by three-quarters of a length in 1:49.00.

Jesus’ Team held third by a clear margin over Dr Post, with Celtic Striker and First Line completing the order of finish. Happy Saver withdrew to await a start in Monday’s Deputed Testamony S. at Laurel Park.

Stidham credited the addition of blinkers with Mystic Guide’s improved performance.

“It did exactly what I was hoping,” said Stidham. “I know he was last down the backside, but he was definitely there when Jose called on him today whereas the last time he was too late and had no chance… Once he got through turning for home, I felt really good about him because he has a big kick. He put himself in a better spot today and gave himself a chance.”

Triumphing in the Jim Dandy boosted Mystic Guide’s career tally to 5-2-1-2, with earnings of $143,200. A late nominee to the Triple Crown, Mystic Guide could potentially target the Preakness if he bounces out of the Jim Dandy in good order.

“It certainly is a race that we’ll look at. If our horse comes out of the race really well and we like the way he trains in the next couple of weeks, the Preakness would certainly be on the table no matter what happens today [in the Kentucky Derby].”