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Arcangelo won the 2023 Peter Pan Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park, the local prep race for the Belmont Stakes (G1). Should the Jena Antonucci trainee go to the Triple Crown’s Third Jewel? If he does, how much chance do you give him? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Blue Rose Farm’s Arcangelo, with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard, outdueled 9-5 favorite Bishops Bay in deep stretch to capture his stakes debut in Saturday’s 69th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan at Belmont Park.
The nine-furlong test for sophomores is the traditional local prep for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets which is slated for June 10. Multiple horses have gone on to capture the ‘Test of the Champion’ following a Peter Pan coup including Tonalist , A.P. Indy , Danzig Connection  and Coastal .
In addition to his first start at stakes level, Arcangelo also made his first start outside of Gulfstream Park, arriving off a third-out maiden victory on March 18 going a one-turn mile at the South Florida oval.
The beat continued to go on for Castellano, who last Saturday earned his first Grade 1 Kentucky Derby win aboard Mage.
“I feel good. I feel like I’m 19-years-old. When you ride that type of horse, you feel good,” Castellano, 45, said.
Breaking from the rail in the eight-horse field, Arcangelo took toward the rear of the field down the backstretch as the Florent Geroux-piloted Bishops Bay battled for control on the front end with Asmodeus through an opening quarter-mile in 24.52 seconds over the fast main track. Meanwhile, Castellano began moving Arcangelo off the rail and into the three path just behind Henry Q in third.
Bishops Bay established a clear advantage but Asmodeus rematched strides with his foe through a half in 48.83. Around the far turn, Bishops Bay was in control once more, under no urging, as Asmodeus dopped out of contention and Arcangelo loomed large in the clear from the four path.
Geroux began calling on Bishops Bay for his best run at the top of the stretch while Arcangelo launched his menacing bid and put a head in front at the three-sixteenths pole. Bishops Bay battled back gamely and regained the lead for a couple of strides, but Arcangelo would not be denied, completing the nine furlongs in a final time of 1:49.71.
Bishops Bay finished another 8 3/4 lengths head of third-place finisher Henry Q, while Classic Catch, Go Soldier Go, Summer Cause, Asmodeus and Game Change completed the order of finish. Slip Mahoney scratched to contest the Long Branch at Monmouth Park, where he finished fourth.
Castellano, who piloted Arcangelo to his maiden victory, is now 2-for-2 aboard the son of Arrogate.
“At Gulfstream, he didn’t break good out of the gate. I let it develop a little bit and tried to fight a little bit to get close,” Castellano recalled. “At Gulfstream, you have to adjust a little bit to the track and you can’t leave it too far back. If you chase too much, you lose the momentum and have to roll again.”
Arcangelo shipped to Belmont early to put together his final serious piece of work for Saturday’s engagement, logging a sharp five-furlong work in 59.60 seconds on May 3 over the Belmont main track with Castellano aboard.
“I fell in love [with] the last work. He went 59 and change – he worked amazing last week. I really liked the way he did it. I think he’s going to get better and better,” Castellano said.
Castellano said Arcangelo responded with grit and determination when having to deal with Bishops Bay down the stretch.
“His [Geroux’s] horse fought again a little bit. I tried to race ride a little bit and intimidate him and put him on top of him,” Castellano said. “But his horse fought and came back again. My horse, when I asked him, he kicked on and galloped out.”
Antonucci, who secured her first graded stakes victory since Doctor J Dub captured the Grade 3 Turf Monster in 2016 at Parx Racing, said she and owner John Ebbert gave Arcangelo the time he needed to develop.
“The horse is just built different. I know that sounds so cliché, but it’s my job – our job – to stay out of his way,” Antonucci said. “Mr. Ebbert has done a great job to give the horse time and let him mature. He’s a May foal. We never had a focus on doing early season. We let the horse grow and mature and here we are. He breezed at Saratoga last summer, but we were never intending to run up there. It’s all been about education and him maturing and figuring out who he is. He’s still a kid figuring it out. We’ll stay out of his way and see how he comes out of this.”
Boasting Belmont Stakes-favorable bloodlines, Arcangelo is out of the Tapit mare Modeling, whose second dam Better Than Honour produced Belmont Stakes winners Jazil  and Rags to Riches .
Antonucci did not rule out pursuing a start in the Belmont Stakes.
“There’s a conversation. We have no plan yet. Ground has never been a problem, that’s why we waited as long as we did,” Antonucci said.
Geroux, who piloted the previously undefeated Bishops Bay in his first two starts, said the Uncle Mo colt can get a bit lost when on the lead.
“He’s very spotty when he runs. In his two previous starts, [he did] the same thing. He looks like he’s got it, but he does not really run away from the other horses,” Geroux said.
Returning $7.50 for a $2 win wager, Arcangelo nearly tripled his lifetime earnings which now stand at $167,400 after banking $110,000 in victory. His record stands at 4-2-0-0.
Bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto Corporation, Arcangelo was obtained for $35,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
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