The Peter Pan Stakes (II) at Belmont has been a springboard for developing horses such as last year’s winner Alternation, a now-four-year-old who has been unstoppable in this year’s handicaps. A nice full field should be showing up for this year’s rendition, with shipper and Derby dropout Mark Valeski ready to start taking names as he attacks a distance that should be to his liking. I’d like to comment in advance that this is a pretty nice field in comparison to other years, but what in the hay was the racing secretary on assigning some of these weights?!
$200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Belmont Park. Post Time: Saturday, May 12 at 5:06pm EST.
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Right to Vote - Alex Solis, 116 lbs, Eoin Harty - A Political Force gelding I haven’t heard much from since he hit up New York as a juvenile, Right to Vote got back on his feet in his only start this year at Gulfstream, cruising just off the lead to nab the win by a head in a 6 1/2 furlong allowance. He was solid at Belmont last year, taking third in the Champagne (I) behind Union Rags and Alpha, but this one will need a little extra time at minimum.
2) The Lumber Guy - Michael Luzzi, 120 lbs, Michael Hushion - The dizzying winner of the Jerome Stakes (II) last out at Aqueduct, the 1 1/8 mile Wood Memorial (I) proved to be a bad showing for the front-running son of Grand Slam. He’s been breezing at his usual winning pace at Belmont, and looks like he could possibly get another furlong or two, but the Jerome wasn’t run against anyone too brilliant (at all) and he’ll be back to rubbing elbows with better horses.
3) Zetterholm - Junior Alvarado, 116 lbs, Rick Dutrow - With 3 wins in 4 starts this year including a 2-length win in the Patsyprospect Stakes at Aqueduct, Dutrow is stepping things up for the Silver Train colt who he would have preferred to start in the Preakness (I) should room be made. His works have been decent and he’s being stretched out from his one-mile stakes win as a closer who gets the job done in the stretch. The Lumber Guy and Mark Valeski should set up a hot pace for this one.
4) Le Bernardin - Eddie Castro, 116 lbs, Kiaran McLaughlin - A $325k yearling purchase, the Bernardini colt owned by Darley broke his maiden on his second try and followed it up with a nearly 2-length allowance win at a mile over older horses, with all starts at neighboring Aqueduct. With no brilliant works and no juvenile racing foundation, combined with the Bernardini expectations I’ll throw this one in the “won’t improve significantly until summer at best” pile.
5) Mark Valeski - Rosie Napravnik, 116 lbs, Larry Jones - Perhaps one of the most underrated three-year-olds on the Derby trail, the Proud Citizen colt scared favorite El Padrino in the Risen Star (II) when second by a dueling nose and was runner-up again to Hero of Order during an “off day” in the Louisiana Derby (II) as the favorite. Originally meant for the Kentucky Derby (I), Jones decided to shelve him after some brilliant works at Churchill with the sentiment he wasn’t 110% fired up to give it his all for another week or two. I loved Mark Valeski’s works at Churchill, and the look of him gave me confidence despite not liking him that much during the prep season. With Napravnik and 116 lbs, I’m ready to see a breakthrough stakes win for this colt.
6) Good Morning Diva - Julien Leparoux, 120 lbs, Timothy Hills - 5th in the Swale (III), the Lion Heart colt bounced back to win the Calder Derby last out stretching out to 1 1/16 miles, battling Big Screen all alone up front to win by a neck as the favorite. His works have been steady ones aimed to stretch out, but I have some concerns for his confidence. He doesn’t seem to do too well when he’s outkicked at the start, and there are some very fast horses here who will push him out of his comfort zone.
7) Hakama - John Velazquez, 116 lbs, Michael Trombetta - The First Samurai colt was a victim of racing luck in the Illinois Derby (III), traveling 7-wide after a bumpy trip to take third. Before that, he was beaten a head by Raconteur in the Private Term Stakes. Works at Fair Hill have been very good and barring trouble, Hakama should have a shot to get up there… if he’s good for the distance, might be another story entirely.
8) Big Screen - Rajiv Maragh, 116 lbs, Thomas Albertrani - The pedigree of this Speightstown reads “speed demon,” though he has yet to have a win this year out of 3 starts, his best being 2 seconds to Good Morning Diva in the Calder Derby and Heavy Breathing in an allowance where he was rank early on. He has matured slowly and picks up a new jockey and trainer, but has yet to showcase the kind of works I would expect from him at this point. Put him on the wait-and-see list.
9) Master Rick - Corey Nakatani, 120 lbs, Steve Asmussen - A Master Command who finally found his running gear, Master Rick snapped his maiden only in March, but did so by more than 5 lengths over 1 1/16 miles and followed that win up with an upset over G1 winner Drill in the mile-long, ungraded Northern Spur Stakes. Breezing his usual steady works, I like the look and feel of this rising star who is ready to peak for the class and slight distance bump here.
10) Teeth of the Dog - Joe Bravo, 116 lbs, Michael Matz - Toteboard finishes line this late-blooming Bluegrass Cat colt’s record this year, marked by a longshot show performance in the Wood Memorial (I) behind Gemologist and Alpha gaining ground late. He should be given ample credit for the wide, late Wood trip seeing as he only broke his maiden in February. The distance will be to his liking and judging by his drills he’s ready for a good performance.
11) Summer Front - Ramon Dominguez, 120 lbs, Chris Clement - The War Front colt just made his first start of the year recently when finishing a sharp second in the Lexington Stakes (III), and will be hitting the dirt for the first time here. He doesn’t strike me as a horse who should be a typical threat in this scenario, but I do like Clement’s style and this colt in particular impressed me a lot on the grass last year. Considering he should keep improving off that runner-up in the Lexington, there’s legroom for upset.
12) Street Life - Jose Lezcano, 116 lbs, Chad Brown - The late-rushing winner of the Broad Brush Stakes, the Street Sense colt broke poorly in the Wood Memorial (I) and flattened out to finish 6th. He’ll be donning blinkers for the first time. He’s been breezing at Belmont for some time preparing for this race, but with the funny outside post, this likely won’t be his comeback day.
Top Picks in Order:
1) Mark Valeski
2) Teeth of the Dog
3) Master Rick
4) Summer Front
Value Pick(s): Good Morning Diva, Master Rick