With several big races being run on the weekend in between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, I figured I’d stick with the three year old theme and take a look at the 2014 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park in New York where Tonalist has been installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite.
The Peter Pan, which is run at nine furlongs and for $200,000, is the perfect and traditional prep race for Horse Racing’s third jewel in the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes which will be run on June 7.
The race itself was named not for a mischievous boy who flies around and refuses to grows up (although I don’t blame him for that, I refuse to grow up myself) but instead for Peter Pan the horse, who won 10 of 17 career starts including the 1907 Belmont Stakes and would later be named champion three year old that same year.
Past winners of the Peter Pan certainly drew my attention starting with Gallant Man (1957), Coastal, who would later go on to spoil the great Spectacular Bid’s Triple Crown run (1979), the good looking Tap Shoes (1981), the gorgeous Slew O’ Gold (1983), eventually Breeders Cup Classic winner Proud Truth (1985), the ornery but later becoming a super sire Seeking The Gold (1988) and the great A.P. Indy (1992). More recent winners were Mark Valeski (2012) and Freedom Child (2013).
Albeit the Peter Pan is on Saturday at Belmont, Sunday’s card at Belmont is loaded for action as well. The entries show four stakes races with three of them being graded.
The Westchester Mile, run for four year olds and up for $150,000 drew a field of just four. Top older horse and 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice looks to pick up an easy $90,000 in that one.
“We felt like it made sense to run him between the New Orleans Handicap and the Met, and we felt like the Westchester made a lot of sense,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “If he performs well in the Westchester it would add confidence that the Met is the right race for him. If he were to not run well—which I don’t anticipate will be the case—then maybe we could go in another direction, like the Brooklyn.”
The $200,000 Brooklyn, also June 7, will be run at 1 1/2 miles.
“It’s rare you have so many options with one horse, but he’s already proven he can win anywhere from 6 1/2 furlongs to a mile and a half. He’s already won at a mile this year, and we want us to put ourselves in a good position for the Met. Hopefully, the Whitney would be a big goal after that.”
The Ruffian Handicap, which is run at a mile for four year old and up fillies and mares for $250,000, also drew a short field (6) but this race look a lot more competitive. From what I can see, three of the six entered have good chance of winning the race.
My Wandy’s Girl, who started the year by winning a $300,000 stakes race at Laurel back in February, has won an astonishing 15 of 23 career starts with six other on the board finishes and shows a monster work (4F- :462.) last week, the talented and multiple graded stakes winner Grace Hall, who will be making her first start in over a year (she cracked a coffin bone in April, 2013) and west coast invader Fiftyshadesofhay, who is also a multiple graded stakes winner albeit she seems to be off form coming in to this, all should merit betting consideration.
Last, but certainly not least, is the 11 furlong Man O’ War Stakes on the turf for four year olds and up running for $400,000.
Seven will enter the starting gate and, once again, of the seven that will run….four or five have a shot to win it.
The globe trotting Grandeur, the versatile Imagining, Frac Daddy who looks to be in peak form right now, the veteran Lucayan, whois more than capable of pulling this off and Real Solution, who won the Arlington Million last year, all rate a solid chance. However, before going to the betting windows, you better take a long look at Amira’s Prince. This horse has done nothing but fire big race after big race since his arrival from Ireland.
The big race at Santa Anita this weekend is the Laz Barrera Stakes for three year olds going seven furlongs for $100,000.
A field of eight is set to go and a couple I want to point out for you to keep an eye on include, Tonito N who ships in from Puerto Rico with a six win in seven career start record, including an 11 length tour de force win in his last (a grade: 3 race). This son of the enormous Rock Hard Ten is intriguing to me for sure. Also entered is Kobe’s Back, who might be one of the better late running sprinters in the country at this point in the season and Twenty Percent, who came from out of nowhere to mow down a field of maiden in his racing debut on March 22. This colt by Dixie Union made up 13 ¼ lengths in less than two furlongs in a visually impressive performance. He’s taking a big step up but he, too, is an intriguing horse.
Saturday May 10, 2014
Peter Pan Stakes
For Three Year Olds
One And One Eighth Miles
|1||1||Matterhorn||3/C||L||J R Velazquez||116||T A Pletcher||6/1|
|2||2||Fabulous Kid||3/C||L||J Alvarado||116||J J Toner||4/1|
|3||3||Commissioner||3/C||L||J Castellano||116||T A Pletcher||5/2|
|4||4||Tonalist||3/C||L||J Rosario||116||C Clement||2/1|
|5||5||Tapicero||3/C||L||E J Zayas||116||M Morales||20/1|
|6||6||Our Caravan||3/R||L||J Lezcano||120||M Dilger||5/1|
|7||7||Irish You Well||3/C||L||I Ortiz, Jr.||116||W M Catalano||15/1|
1) Tonalist– has had a solid start to 2014.
This colt by Tapit broke his maiden on Jan 18 in a race that he was seventh going down the backside but unleashed a monster run from about the three eights pole to put himself into contention (five wide) at the quarter pole. From there, he leveled out and put four lengths between him at the rest of the field.
His connections brought him back a little over a month later in a high priced optional claimer where he was, once again, taken off the early pace (second all the way around) before swinging three wide at the top of the stretch but was (understandably) unable to reel in the winner, who just happened to be the enormously talented Constitution, who, of course, won the Florida Derby in just his third career start.
When asked how this colt, who passed on the Derby and Preakness due to a lung infection, was coming into this race, trainer Christophe Clement simply said
“I’m delighted and looking forward to possibly running in the Belmont Stakes” then added “I’m excited, (about the Peter Pan)” said Clement. “Let’s go!!”
Consistent speed figures, big work last week (May 4- 5F- 1:00 flat), confident veteran trainer…all he really needs to do is duplicate that last race (vs. Constitution) and that should put him in the winner circle on Saturday afternoon.
2) Commissioner– was highly touted for the Kentucky Derby several weeks ago but seems to going in the wrong direction lately.
This well bred colt (A.P Indy- Flaming Heart by Touch Gold) started his career with a strong late running second (to a runaway winner), bounced right back just 17 days later to break his maiden before getting some 5 months off and beating a high priced optional claiming field at Gulfstream.
But from there, things go a little hair-wire as since that high price claimer race at Gulfstream, this horse hasn’t been within seven lengths of winner in his last three races.
In order, he got beat 10 lengths in the Fountain of Youth (Wildcat Red), seven lengths in the Sunland Park Derby (Chitu) and 11 lengths in the Arkansas Derby (Danza)….granted the winners are good horses all but still, to be manhandled like that, makes me wonder what’s going on with him.
“Things didn’t go well in the paddock (before the Arkansas Derby) and we feel it compromised his chances before he even got out there,” said trainer Todd Pletcher “Hopefully we’ll correct that and get a true reading on him.”
Ok, Mr Pletcher…understood…but what about the other two races where he didn’t show up?
Overall, he’s a nice horse, but I just can’t play or recommend him with a whole lot of confidence, he needs to show me more before I get back on his bandwagon and this race would be a good spot to do just that.
3) Our Caravan– shows a similar line than that of Commssioner.
This ridgling by Daaher (Awesome Again) exploded on the far turn to break his maiden (at first asking) back in December but was promptly blown off the race track in both the Holy Bull Stakes (Cairo Prince) and in the Fountain of Youth (Wildcat Red) as he lost both those races by a combined 29 lengths.
His connection, trainer Michael Dilger and owner Anstu Stables, decided to lower their sights a bit and run him back in the Calder Derby. That experiment worked perfectly as this horse buried that field in winning by almost 10 lengths (albeit in a slow time – nine furlongs in 1:54.1) and recorded the highest speed figure of anyone in this field.
“Our Caravan has been training great,” said Dilger of this horse who shows a series of five furlongs works coming into this race. “I think the speed bias at Gulfstream Park (for the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth) didn’t play to his strength. We’re hoping he runs well enough to earn a spot in the Belmont.”
A very capable Jose Lezcano takes the reins and could be a threat if he reproduces that Calder Derby race.
Matterhorn was also once a Kentucky Derby hopeful but fizzled of late. This colt by Tapit won his debut back in Nov and scored a solid speed figure in doing so. But in his next race (Feb 22), he was blasted to smithereens while finishing 10th, beaten 18 lengths. He then came back about five weeks later and could do no better than third against an allowance field.
“We were very impressed by Matterhorn’s debut,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “He spent part of the winter playing catch up. I think similar to what we saw in Wicked Strong, he did not particularly care for Gulfstream’s surface. At the time he ran (February) it was very speed-favoring. I thought his last start was better than it looked on paper. Hopefully that will set him up well for this.”
Fabulous Kid won first time out by by leading every step of the way against a field of maidens at Oaklwan park and then was wheeled right back in the $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes (an aggressive move) but he coughed up a clear lead in deep stretch and finished third. “I’ve had him about two weeks now, and he’s been doing everything right,” said new trainer Jimmy Toner, who trains this colt for Dr. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaram, who campaigned 2009 Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird and who are obviously looking to return to the Belmont.
As for the other two entered in this race, Irish You Well is still a maiden but has been on the board in 5 of 7 career starts and the services of Irad Ortiz, who is winning at a 20% clip and Topicero, who is coming off monster back to back 7 ½ lengths wins (vs. maidens and low level optional claimers) but takes an enormous jump up in class.
2014 Record: 9-26 = 35%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** 2009 Horse of the Year and fan favorite, Zenyatta will not be bred this year. Her website, www.zenyatta.com, reports both Zenyatta, and her War Front filly (born April 20), are both in “good health and excellent condition,” but a decision was made to give her a year off from foaling.
“She will have time to rest, mentally and physically, and to enjoy being a horse in one of the most beautiful places in the country. (Lane’s End Farm).”
Zenyatta has three foals to date, the filly born April 20; a yearling Tapit colt named Ziconic; and a juvenile Bernardini colt named Cozmic One
**** 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome made his first appearance on the track Wednesday at Churchill Downs since winning the 140th Run for the Roses.
The flashy chestnut colt jogged a mile under regular exercise rider Willie Delgado
“Good. Good. Really super,” Delgado said. “He went out there like he always does. He is his normal self.”
“It went really good,” Alan Sherman, son of trainer Art Sherman said. “He wanted to train; he was tired of walking.”
Sherman said California Chrome would then gallop one and one half miles Thursday and Friday before shipping to Pimlico for the Preakness the early part of next week.