Under-the-radar Kentucky Derby contenders, volume 24

July 14th, 2020

A weekly look at under-the-radar 3-year-olds who could step up and make an impact on the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

Candy Tycoon

Conditioned by two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, Candy Tycoon required five starts to break his maiden, but he has shown steady improvement since he stretched out around two turns on dirt.

After he graduated by four lengths Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park, Candy Tycoon produced a determined rally to finish second in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and secured 20 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Candy Tycoon subsequently failed to fire when he was beaten 21 lengths in the Florida Derby (G1), but the son of Twirling Candy rebounded in a 1 1/16-mile allowance May 2 at Oaklawn Park, where he charged gamely down the lane to finish second by 1 1/4 lengths against Rushie. The latter returned to finish third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Blue Grass (G2), so there was no shame in Candy Tycoon’s runner-up effort.

From a Brisnet Speed rating perspective, Candy Tycoon will need improvement to challenge for victory in the Kentucky Derby (G1). But he is entered in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan (G3) on Thursday at Saratoga, and a top-two finish should secure him a spot in the Derby starting gate.

Isn’t that half the battle?

Mystic Guide

A son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, Mystic Guide was produced by the A.P. Indy mare Music Note, a classy and versatile mare who won five Grade 1 races, from 7 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles.

Bred and owned by Godolphin, Mystic Guide turned heads when he unleashed a powerful finish to win a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Fair Grounds by five lengths, over the future winners Amani’s Eagle and Verb. Mystic Guide was subsequently beaten by five lengths in an allowance event over the same distance at Belmont Park, but the one-turn race unfolded at a fast tempo from start to finish, and Mystic Guide showed grit to secure the runner-up spot, behind a gate-to-wire winner.

Mystic Guide is slated to join Candy Tycoon in the Peter Pan, and he figures to relish the stretch back out around two turns.

Trainer Michael Stidham has enlisted Saratoga’s 2019 leading jockey, Jose Ortiz, to ride, and while the stakes are high — a victory will be necessary to guarantee Mystic Guide a spot in the Derby — this promising chestnut colt might be up to handling the challenge.