Country Grammer and Irad Ortiz, Jr. slipped through on the rail turning for home, then battled Caracaro through the stretch before prevailing late to take the Peter Pan Stakes (G3) at Saratoga. Trained by Chad Brown and sent off as the 4-1 third choice in the race, the 3-year-old by Tonalist earned 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points for the win.
Longshot Mo Hawk set the early pace from his inside post as the field was bunched up through fractions of :23.24, :48.13, 1:12.35 and 1:37.05 for the mile. Another longshot, Celtic Striker sat second while Caracaro was third on the outside and Ortiz hugged the rail with Country Grammer in fourth. Coming for home, Ortiz came up the inside while Javier Castellano went outside on Caracaro, setting up the stretch duel as the two pulled away from the field. The 8-5 favorite Mystic Guide rallied late for third. Country Grammer stopped the clock in 1:49.79 for the nine furlongs and paid $10.20 for the win.
“Irad rode a beautiful race,” Brown said from the Saratoga winner’s circle. “He took advantage of a really good post we had. We wanted to get the horse around two turns and gone a little further. His last race at Belmont, this horse has just proved he doesn’t like Belmont. He’s never really trains good there. His race wasn’t good there. We just kind of drew a line through it.”
A total of 85 Derby qualifying points were on the line, distributed 50-20-10-5 to the first four finishers. The 50 points vaulted the winner to 11th place on the Derby qualifying list. Caracaro is 26th with 20 points and Mystic Guide’s 10 points have him in 30th place.
Brown was asked if Country Grammer make his next start in the Travers or out of town?
“I’ll talk to (owner) Paul Pompa about it and see what he wants to do,” Brown said from the winner’s circle at Saratoga. “I’d say that’s more likely to just stay right here. We’ve had our eye on this race a while back for this horse, I know he got a late start and hasn’t run much, but I’d say that’s most likely.”