December 1, 2023

Arcangelo edges Bishops Bay in Peter Pan

Arcangelo wins the Peter Pan Stakes (Photo by Janet Garaguso/Coglianese Photos)

Promising three-year-olds Arcangelo and Bishops Bay hooked up for an exciting stretch battle in Saturday’s $200,000 Peter Pan (G2) at Belmont Park, and Arcangelo got the better of his rival in the final strides, securing a head win in his stakes debut.

Javier Castellano was up for John Ebbert’s Blue Rose Farm and trainer Jena Antonucci, and Arcangelo left the starting gate as the 2.75-1 second choice, bet down from 10-1 on the morning line. The gray Arrogate colt completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.71.

The Peter Pan serves as a local prep for the $1.5 million Belmont (G1) on June 10, and connections will consider the 1 1/2-mile race for Arcangelo.

“There’s a conversation,” Antonucci said. “We have no plan yet. Ground has never been a problem, that’s why we waited as long as we did.”

Arcangelo had raced exclusively at Gulfstream Park, making a pair of starts over the winter before breaking his maiden at a one-time mile on March 18. He received a 97 Brisnet Speed rating for the 3 1/2-length decision, the top last-out number in the Peter Pan field, and Arcangelo returned from a 56-day layoff on Saturday, settling into a stalking trip from the innermost post.

“The horse is just built different,” Antonucci explained. “I know that sounds so cliché, but it’s my job – our job – to stay out of his way. Mr. Ebbert has done a great job to give the horse time and let him mature. He’s a May foal. We never had a focus on doing early season. We let the horse grow and mature and here we are.”

Bishops Bay, bet down to 1.95-1 favoritism after winning his first two starts, maiden and entry-level allowance races at Fair Grounds, showed speed from the start, head-and-head with 33-1 outsider Asmodeus through opening splits in :24.52, :48.83, and 1:13.23. That rival gave way nearing the completion of the far turn, but Arcangelo was advancing into the frame on the far outside.

“I said to Jena, this is the type of horse I let him fall out of the gate and let him do what he wants to do,” Castellano said. “Let him get into a rhythm, get momentum and keep calm. And that’s exactly what I did today.”

After advancing four wide on the bend, Arcangelo reached even terms by the eighth pole, but Bishops Bay was not through, finding more along the inside to reassert a short lead approaching deep stretch. A duel to the wire ensued, and Arcangelo determinedly gained the upper hand late.

Both runners delivered encouraging performances in their initial stakes attempts.

“I feel good,” said Castellano, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017 and recorded his first Kentucky Derby win aboard Mage a week early. “I feel like I’m 19-years-old. When you ride that type of horse, you feel good.”

Henry Q, making his first start for Doug O’Neill and new owners after being privately purchased following a third in the Sunland Derby (G3), wound up nearly 10 lengths back of the top two in third at 9-1. It was two more lengths to 3-1 third choice Classic Catch, and Go Soldier Go, Summer Cause, Asmodeus, and Game Change came next under the wire.

Bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto Corporation, Arcangelo was purchased for $35,000 as a yearling at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. He’s the first stakes winner from the Tapit mare Modeling, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Streaming, and Arcangelo counts Better Than Honour as his third maternal dam, the 2007 Broodmare of the Year and producer of back-to-back Belmont winners Jazil and Rags to Riches, the champion three-year-old filly of 2007.

Antonucci is excited to see what’s next for Arcangelo.

“He’s still a kid figuring it out. We’ll stay out of his way and see how he comes out of this.”