After Easy Goer 'Walk In The Park,' Handal May Wheel Celtic Striker Back In July 16 Peter Pan - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

After Easy Goer ‘Walk In The Park,’ Handal May Wheel Celtic Striker Back In July 16 Peter Pan

Trainer Ray Handal

Trainer Ray Handal reported that all was well with Celtic Striker the morning after a 19 3/4-length romp in Thursday's Easy Goer, which scratched down to a field of two at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

The newly minted stakes victor earned an 80 Beyer Speed Figure for the triumph and Handal said Celtic Striker's next start could take place in the Grade 3, $100,000 Peter Pan on July 16 at Saratoga Race Course.

“He's looking really good. Came back like it was just a walk in a park,” Handal said. “He ran though. It wasn't like he went around there and galloped. He didn't just canter around there. He performed. He ran hard.”

Normally contested at Belmont Park, the Peter Pan, a 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-olds, found a home at The Spa for this year's summer meet following a readjustment to the stakes schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, it offers the Top 4 finishers 50-20-10-5 qualifying points towards the Grade 1, $3 million Kentucky Derby on Sept 5 at Churchill Downs.

“It's a little sooner than I want to but the way he came out of it that's the short term goal,” said Handel who also offered the Grade 2, $150,000 Jim Dandy on September 5 at Saratoga as another possibility.

Celtic Striker, bred in Kentucky by Stoneview Farm and Craig D. Upham, scored a third lifetime victory in seven starts in the Easy Goer. Two starts after a second-out graduation at Monmouth Park in October, he defeated winners at Parx Racing. He was purchased for $100,000 from the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Celtic Striker's win in the Easy Goer marked the first match race on the NYRA circuit since Painted Poney topped Epiphany in a claiming sprint on January 29, 2015 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Handal also said stakes-placed Kansas Kis, second to Water White in the March 7 Busher Invitational at Aqueduct, will receive a freshening in preparation for a campaign during the second half of the year.

“She's been running hard. She just needed some time off, so we gave her 60 days and we'll look for a big second half of the year with her,” Handal said.

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