50 Derby Points to Winner
By Dick Downey
The Downey Profile
Photo by C Durand/NYRA
Country Grammer ran his way into the Kentucky Derby picture with a narrow win of the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan Stakes on opening day at Saratoga.
Before an empty grandstand, Country Grammer and Irad Ortiz, Jr., who saved ground in fourth position early, cut the corner leaving the far turn to move toward prominence in upper stretch. Caracaro, who sat third early under Javier Castellano, ran outside of pacesetters Mo Hawk and Celtic Striker and led in upper stretch. At the furlong marker, it was either horse's race.
Country Grammer edged Caracaro by a neck. The head-on shows some bumping between Country Grammer as they neared the wire, but stewards didn't declare an inquiry, and there was no objection lodged before the race was declared official.
Mystic Guide, who led only one of nine horses during the first six furlongs, got up late to finish third, beaten 3 1/2 lengths. Celtic Striker, who pressed the early pace set by longshot Mo Hawk, stayed on for fourth, another 4 3/4 lengths back. Mo Hawk led through fractions of 23.24, 48.13 and 1:12.35 before giving way. The raced was timed in 1:49.79.
The top four were followed across the finish line by Modernist, Chestertown, Candy Tycoon, Mo Hawk and Katzarelli. Modernist entered and exited the race with 70 Kentucky Derby points. Candy Tycoon, who looked good warming up, broke in a tangle and never recovered.
The result means 50 Kentucky Derby points go to Country Grammer, putting him 11th on the Derby points leaderboard; and 20 go to Caracaro, 10 to Mystic Guide and five to Celtic Striker. Whether any of them will be wheeled back in Saratoga's Travers Stakes 23 days hence remains to be decided, but winning trainer Chad Brown said they will not ship out of town for any other prep race.
Chad Brown trains the winner for Saratoga mainstay Paul Pompa, Jr. Country Grammer, foaled on May 11, 2017, was bred in Kentucky by Scott Pierce and Debbie Pierce and was acquired at the Ocala April 2018 Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale for $450,000. He's by Tonalist, a Peter Pan winner himself, out of the Forestry mare Arabian Song.
The third choice in the betting at 4-1 off a 7-2 morning line, Country Grammer paid $2 ticket holders $10.20 to win, $4.80 to place and $3.10 to show. Caracaro, who was bet down to the 3-1 second choice off a 6-1 morning line after a six-month layoff, returned $4.50 to place and $3.10 to show. Mystic Guide's show payoff was $2.80 as the 8-5 favorite.
Chad Brown: "Irad gave him a beautiful ride. He took advantage of his inside post/ He trains that way and he's a bit of a grinder. He's a long-distance horse and we've been wanting to get him back out to a mile and an eighth. Obviously, the logical thing is to point him to the Travers at a mile and a quarter. I don't think he'll have a problem with the distance. We'll have to see if he's good enough. He hasn't run many times, and there's room for improvement there. It's a race we hoped to get him to, and I'll talk to Mr. Pompa about it. It's really nice to win this race but definitely a bittersweet day when this beautiful place is empty where I grew up. We'll try to get through the meet and hold out hope that maybe it will open more during the meet, but there's no guarantees about that. We'll do the best we can and we're grateful they're running here. Hopefully, this is the only year we have to do this. NYRA has really done a good jo. It feels very safe on the backside training in the morning. It's well organized and I think it's a very safe environment."
Irad Ortiz, Jr.: "He's a fighter. He has a great trainer and he had something left at the end. Chad's horses finish really good. I never gave up, and I was lucky he came back."
Javier Castallano, aboard Caracaro. "I had a beautiful trip. I like the way it set up. My horse usually likes to go to the lead and tries to dictate the pace He broke a little sideways out of the gate. I decided not to rush and put him in the lead, and just let him develop himself. I think he got tired the last part of the race, he hadn't run in such a long time. I'm very satisfied with how he did it today. He was only beat a little bit and I'm not disappointed at all. I'm excited for his future."