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Wihle 2020 has given us many things to be upset about, Saratoga returning gives every horse racing fan a reason to be happy. Even with empty stands, Saratoga will always be a major staple on the racing calendar.
The 2020 Opening Day feature is the $100,000 Peter Pan Stakes (G3), originally scheduled for earlier in the year at Belmont Park. The race offers Kentucky Derby points to the top four finishers on a 50-20-10-5 scale. The event is the second-to-last on a 10 race card and has a local post time of 5:46 PM ET.
The entry with the strongest resume is Modernist, who won the Risen Star Stakes (G2) earlier in the year at Fair Grounds. He followed that by finishing third in the Louisiana Derby (G2), but he struggled to a seventh-place effort in the Belmont Stakes (G1) last time out. He’ll break from post 3 with regular rider Junior Alvarado up.
Todd Pletcher brings the consistent Candy Tycoon, who exits a runner-up effort in an Oaklawn Park allowance race. He finished second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) three races back before an off-the-board effort in the Florida Derby (G1). John Velazquez will be aboard the colt once again when he breaks from post 5.
Mystic Guide brings some hype after a runner-up effort in a tough allowance race at Belmont Park last time out. His most impressive effort came 2 starts back at Fair Grounds, when he broke his maiden by 5 lengths. He gets Jose Ortiz to ride from post 6 for this contest.
The full field from the rail out: Mo Hawk, Country Grammer, Modernist, Celtic Striker, Candy Tycoon, Mystic Guide, Caracaro, Chestertown, and Katzarelli.
#5 Candy Tycoon – He feels like he is progressing at the right time for a nice summer campaign. His 2020 season includes a runner-up effort in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), and last time out, he ran well in an Oaklawn Park allowance, finishing second to Rushie, who was recently third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2). He is well-suited for this distance and should be ready to put his best foot forward.
#6 Mystic Guide – He looked like he had some serious talent after dominating maiden special weight company at Fair Grounds by 5 lengths. He was unable to back up that victory last time out, though, as he was soundly defeated in an allowance race. He lured Jose Ortiz to ride here and he should like stretching out in distance. Those factors make him dangerous.
#7 Caracaro – He has the most question marks in the field. His maiden-breaking race on January 11 at Gulfstream Park was ultra-impressive, but we haven’t seen him since that effort. Running for the first time against winners is always a challenge, so doing it after a six-month layoff is a lot to ask. Still, this horse does have ability, so he has a shot to make some noise against this group.
#3 Modernist – He is the classiest horse in the field, which is always important, but he is far from flashy. His effort last time out in the Belmont Stakes (G1) was not competitive, and 2 starts back, he was an average third in the Louisiana Derby (G2). He needs this class drop, but he still might be worth playing against as far as a win bet is concerned.
#2 Country Grammer – You have to take Chad Brown seriously in New York stakes races, especially at Saratoga. He showed some promise last year, but he has not come close to winning either of his 2020 starts. He fits this race well and could finally be rounding into form after some solid recent workouts. With improvement, he could upset this field.
#4 Celtic Striker – It’s not often that a horse wins a stakes by nearly 20 lengths and is then listed as a throw out in his next start. Celtic Striker aired in the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park last time out, but there was only one horse against him. When facing normal-sized stakes fields, he has not been good enough to even hit the board.
#8 Chestertown – He has yet to live up to his lofty $2 million purchase price and has just 1 victory from 6 career starts. He was beaten by over 11 lengths in his only start against stakes company and enters a spot that looks too tough for him.
#1 Mo Hawk – He was hyped last year prior to debuting for Bob Baffert but didn’t live up to it. He moved to the Rodolphe Brisset barn and won on the Indiana Grand grass, but this is a big jump in class and he might ultimately be a better turf horse.
#9 Katzarelli – After two off-the-board efforts against allowance company, it’s surprising to see him entered here. He’ll need to show major improvement to have chance.
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