Certain racehorses have a tell when it comes to letting their connections know they’re sitting on the kind of performance that often leads to a trip to the winner’s circle. For some, it can be a more-aggressive-than-normal gallop out after a work. For others, it’s a general level of swagger they carry with them around the barn.
Unless Mystic Guide has been delivering some Oscar-worthy exploits of late, trainer Michael Stidham believes he has witnessed some clear boasting from the Godolphin homebred ahead of his slated run in the $400,000 Suburban Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park on July 3. The coat that shone so bright beneath the lights at Meydan Racecourse in March is back at full wattage, Stidham says. And even taking the son of Ghostzapper through his daily routine at Fair Hill has become a full-body exercise for those on the end of the lead shank.
“It’s been sort of like in Dubai when about a week or maybe 3-4 days before the race, he just took on that glow and physically he just looked great,” Stidham said. “And he’s back to that. He’s back to where you look at him, he shines like a brand-new copper penny. He’s doing that again. He’s kind of touting us in the mornings around the barn. We have a sand pit that he rolls in every morning after he gallops and some of the mornings when he comes out of there, he’s so strong that honestly, he’s hard to hold down on the ground.
“That’s kind of what he’s been doing lately. I think physically and mentally he’s back to where we need him to be.”
Since his victory on March 27 in the Dubai World Cup (G1), the top of the handicap division has been where Mystic Guide has resided. On Saturday, the 4-year-old chestnut makes his first start since that global conquering when he faces old rival Happy Saver and four others in the 10-furlong Suburban, a Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the $6 million Longines Classic (G1).
The last time Mystic Guide was at Belmont Park, he finished second to Happy Saver by three-quarters of a length when the two first tried older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) last October. To say the Stidham trainee has grown up since would be an understatement.
After starting his 2021 campaign with a six-length win in the Feb. 27 Razorback Handicap (G3), Mystic Guide handled international competition with aplomb when he powered to a 3 ¾-length success in the Dubai World Cup over 2,000 meters – giving his regal pedigree a top-level achievement to match. Upon his return stateside, he spent about a month with Stidham’s string at Keeneland before heading to bucolic Fair Hill where he has turned in three straight bullet workouts, including a half-mile move in :48.20 on June 26.
“It’s really exciting to get him back to the races,” Stidham said of the colt who is out of the multiple Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Music Note. “He’s been doing well. He put back on the weight that…he didn’t really lose a lot of weight from the trip but he did lighten up some and that’s all back. He looks like picture right now.
“When you talk about confidence level, I have all the confidence in the world in the horse, but anytime you’re going into Belmont Park and you’re running against (Hall of Fame trainer) Todd Pletcher….it’s not going to be an easy spot. I don’t have any illusions that it’s going to be an easy spot or any kind of a cakewalk for him but he’s a good horse, he’s training well. I’m looking for another big effort from him.”
Stidham added that the Suburban’s 1 ¼-miles distance was no small factor in deciding to bring Mystic Guide back in this spot, especially when forecasting ahead to his anticipated run in the 10-furlong Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“He’s a true mile-and-a-quarter horse,” Stidham said. “That, and he’s already run at Belmont and he’s run well over the track. The timing is good, it’s been three months since the World Cup. We’ve given him plenty of time to get over whatever factors might play into a horse bouncing off of going over there.”
Jockey Luis Saez will pilot Mystic Guide from post 4 on Saturday.
After defeating Mystic Guide in the 2020 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Wertheimer and Frere’s homebred Happy Saver was given ample time himself to gear up for his 4-year-old season. The son of Super Saver didn’t make his seasonal bow until May 28, winning a one-mile allowance race at Belmont by a length to remain unbeaten in five career starts.
Three of Happy Saver’s five wins have come over the Belmont surface and Pletcher noted he was especially pleased the chestnut when he breezed five-eighths in :59.40 in company with stablemate and fellow Suburban entrant Moretti on June 18.
“I think as an older horse he’s a little more laid back in some of his works,” Pletcher said of Happy Saver. “He always performs well and he’s really filled out and matured. From the way he ran in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last year, he’s proven he likes that distance and that race looks even stronger now with what Mystic Guide has done.”
Repole Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Moretti captured the 11-furlong Flat Out Stakes last June over a sloppy Belmont main track by 5 1/4-lengths ahead of a distant second to Tacitus in last year’s Suburban. He completed 2020 with a 1 1/2-length win in the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone in August at Saratoga, a title Pletcher said Moretti will have a chance to retain on August 5.
“The further the better for him,” said Pletcher. “He ran OK in here last year and this would be a nice bridge to the Birdstone to try and defend his title there.”
A 5-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro, out of the Grade 1-winning mare Rigoletta, Moretti is a half-brother to 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Battle of Midway.
Informative, trained by Uriah St. Lewis for his family’s Trin-Brook Stables, enters from a last-to-first score in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at odds of 79-1 on June 12 at Monmouth Park.
The 4-year-old son of Bodemeister has racked up 25 career starts with three wins and three seconds, and picked up his first graded win last time out when besting Ny Traffic by one-length, garnering a career-best 99 Beyer.