Preakness profile: Mystic Guide

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 22nd, 2020

No one will ever describe Mystic Guide as an early maturing sort. The chestnut 3-year-old was unraced as a juvenile and didn’t secure a graded stakes win until September of his sophomore season.

But there’s nothing wrong with maturing late. It can be quite lucrative for racehorses. Mystic Guide is coming to hand just in time for a productive fall campaign, and since the racing calendar has been restructured because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Godolphin homebred could even secure a classic win in the Oct. 3 Preakness (G1) at Pimlico.

A son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, out of the five-time Grade 1-winning mare Music Note, Mystic Guide’s pedigree blends speed with stamina, but more than anything, it contains multiple strains of late-maturing bloodlines.

While Ghostzapper and Music Note both won Grade 1 races as 3-year-olds, they definitely improved during the second half of their sophomore campaigns and thrived as 4-year-olds.

Mystic Guide appears to be following the same path. Under the care of trainer Michael Stidham, the colt debuted in a 6-furlong maiden sprint Feb. 15 at Fair Grounds, where he rallied after a poor start to finish third. A clean break on the stretch out to 1 1/16 miles a month later made all the difference, as Mystic Guide romped home by five lengths over the same track.

After a couple months off, Mystic Guide experienced mixed results during the spring and early summer. A runner-up effort in a 1 1/16-mile Belmont Park allowance was followed by a third-place effort in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan (G3) at Saratoga, a race where Mystic Guide rallied belatedly from far off the pace.

Stidham and jockey Jose Ortiz agreed the addition of blinkers might enhance Mystic Guide’s early speed and focus. They were right on both accounts. While Mystic Guide trailed his rivals early in the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy (G2) on Sept. 5 at Saratoga, he was closer to the early pace and showed much greater focus down the lane. He rallied with determination to win by three-quarters of a length.

Slowly but steadily, Mystic Guide is progressing in the right direction. The stretch out to classic distances could trigger another meaningful step forward, which stamps this beautifully bred youngster as an intriguing contender for the Preakness and beyond.