Tonalist Can Make a Statement in Peter Pan Stakes

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman")

In the wake of California Chrome’s impressive victory in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) last Saturday, it’s easy to let the excitement take over and start thinking about a potential sweep of the Triple Crown—the first since Affirmed in 1978. But even if California Chrome wins next Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico, he will have to be at the top of his game to defeat the talented cast of lightly-raced newcomers pointing toward the June 7th Belmont Stakes—several of which will prep for the Test of Champions in Saturday’s $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park.

So with this in mind, let’s take a quick look at the Peter Pan, and get an early start on analyzing some of the horses that might line up against California Chrome four weeks from now…

Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II)

This nine-furlong race has drawn a field of seven, led by the Todd Pletcher-trained colt Commissioner. The son of A.P. Indy was a highly-regarded Kentucky Derby candidate earlier this year, but disappointing efforts in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), Sunland Derby (gr. III), and Arkansas Derby (gr. I) left him out of the Derby. Thus, Commissioner—with his stamina-oriented pedigree—is now targeting the twelve-furlong Belmont Stakes, where his ability to maintain a moderate pace for a long distance could prove advantageous. However, one can make a case that the distance of the Peter Pan Stakes is a bit short for Commissioner, and given that this race is more of a prep for the Belmont than anything else, it might be wise to look elsewhere for the winner of the Peter Pan—even though Commissioner could end up being a prime contender for the Belmont itself.

In my opinion, one colt really stands out in the Peter Pan, and that is Tonalist. Trained by Christophe Clement, the son of Tapit broke his maiden going nine furlongs at Gulfstream back in January, then returned a month later to finish second behind subsequent Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Constitution in an 8.5-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Finishing behind Tonalist that day was Wicked Strong, who went on to win the Wood Memorial (gr. I) and finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby. A lung infection caused Tonalist to miss a scheduled start in the Wood Memorial, but the colt has recovered well and signaled his readiness for the Peter Pan by breezing five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.12 at Belmont on May 4th. In my opinion, Tonalist could prove to be one of the better colts of his crop, and I think he’s sitting on a huge effort this Saturday.

One other colt I have my eye on is Fabulous Kid, who was beaten just a length in the one-mile Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn after setting quick fractions. That effort came just two weeks after winning his debut while sprinting six furlongs at Oaklawn, so it’s easy to understand why Fabulous Kid came up a bit short at the end of the Northern Spur. Originally trained by Joseph Martin, Fabulous Kid was recently transferred to the barn of James Toner, who will saddle the speedy colt for the first time on Saturday. As the lone front-runner in the field, perhaps Fabulous Kid can capitalize on the often speed-favoring nature of Belmont Park and steal the Peter Pan in gate-to-wire fashion.

Selection: Tonalist

While on the subject of potential Belmont Stakes contenders, I would like to take a moment to mention a colt named Bay of Plenty, a Darley-bred son of Medaglia d’Oro out of the A.P. Indy mare Kotuku. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Godolphin Racing, Bay of Plenty was as impressive as could be while winning a one-mile allowance race at Belmont Park on May 7th, setting fast fractions of :22.76 and :45.29 before drawing away under little urging to win by 9 ¼ lengths in 1:35.97. In my opinion, this colt is getting very, very good at the right time, and if you’re a fan of Dosage, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more impressive pedigree (he has a Dosage profile of 5-12-21-2-0, with a Dosage Index of 2.20 and a +0.50 Center of Distribution.) I have the feeling we’ll be hearing a lot from this colt during the coming months.

Who do you like this weekend?

38 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Brontexx

Keelerman I picked Bay of Plenty on the other blog yesterday,I picked him in his 2nd race at Gulfstream back in February but he was beat by Ring Weekend in that one and didnt have a good trip.

08 May 2014 5:07 PM
GoldenGiven

I'm taking this weekend off, Keelerman. Medal Count wasn't gonna outrun Commanding Curve for second, but he had dead aim on third before Danza cut him off inside the 8th pole. With that said, I really like the stride on Danza and admit I was totally wrong about him. Now,a dosage profile "should" represent a nice bell curve for a classic-distance horse, and that DP for Bay of Plenty fits it perfectly. I'm in love with your column, Keelerman. Keep up the great work.

08 May 2014 5:47 PM
food fight

Good article Tonalist and Commissioner should run 1-2 in the Peter Pan stakes as both have shown class and have run into huge speed bias having run at Gulf this year. But my selection is Commissioner i am willing to throw out his last race and chalk it up to him acting up in the paddock. his 2 races prior to that where deceptively good the Sunland derby was big speed that day with a head wind pushing horses to the wire and the gulfstream race you had to be on the lead to win so he is sitting on a breakout performance. Tonalist is a very talented colt and if he moves forward off his last where he was also a victim to the speed bias of Gulf he will be very difficult to beat as well.Exacta Tonalist with Commissioner back and forth.  

08 May 2014 10:12 PM
-Keelerman

Brontexx;

Nice handicapping! I remember that tough trip against Ring Weekend -- I thought at the time he might be one to watch in the future. Did you notice that Legend, the runner-up in that race, broke his maiden last Sunday at Belmont Park? He demonstrated decent tactical speed and a strong finishing kick to win a one-mile maiden special weight by 1 1/4 lengths, stopping the clock in 1:36.03 seconds and running his final quarter in :24.47. He's another colt that I wouldn't be surprised to see in the Belmont Stakes.

Here's the chart of the race: www.equibase.com/.../BEL050414USA9.pdf

08 May 2014 10:14 PM
-Keelerman

Thanks for the kind words, GoldenGiven! I appreciate them!

I find it interesting that you think Medal Count could have finished third with a better trip in the Derby, because I have been thinking the same thing! Perhaps I'm just biased, since I was hoping that Medal Count would finish second, but upon watching the replay the day after the Derby, I said the same thing that you did -- if not for Danza shifting lanes so dramatically in the homestretch, I think Medal Count could have finished third. Probably not second, but quite possibly third.

Have a nice weekend!

08 May 2014 10:30 PM
RJ8642

I am still of the opinion that Matterhorn is Pletcher's best 3 yr old.  Too bad he was slow developing.  Still looked like a two year old when he faced older horses in his last race.  He beat Tonalist in his maiden win. He made a closing move in that race that showed he was coming around . He has two sharp 48 works since and should be set up for a win. I had big future bets on both him and Tonalist for the Derby.  Rain in the forecast for Saturday. I'm sure they will be one two in this race. Tonalist may benefit a little more from the wet track, but I'm taking Matterhorn to win.

08 May 2014 10:45 PM
Coldfacts

I revisited Tapit’s last victory that was recorded in the 2004 Wood Memorial to see if he raced with blinkers. He won the Wood with a run from the back of the field and blinkers were not part of his attire. Why raise the blinker issue? Two of Tapit’s best runners from his 2014 3YO crop do not race in blinkers i.e., Untappable and Constitution. The Tapit 4YO Normandy Invasion set a NTR at GP and he does not race in blinkers. Neither does Tapiture or Coin Broker who finished 3rd in the Alysheba at CD.

Tapit will have 3 likely starters in the Peter Pan. Matterhorn and Tonalist will race in blinkers and Tapicero will race without them. There is something interesting about his 3 potential straters.

Matterhorn: He won on debut by 1/2L in blinkers and then was beaten by 18L and 6 1/2L in his next two starts. A 2YO that won on debut over 8F in 1:36 should not have been beaten by such wide margins as a 3YO unless it has injury issues. His 2 races as a 3YO were about a month apart and it is unlikely that such an expensive colt would have been allowed to race if it was injured. He returns to contest the Peter Pan off a 6 weeks respite and has been working similar to how he worked heading into his last race prior to his break. Why should the results be any different? A blinkered horse get beat 24 1/2L in two races and the equipment is retained make no sense. If he wins the Peter Pan I would be surprise.

Tonalist: Without blinkers on debut, he finished 4th behind the blinkers Matterhorn. The blinker were added for his 2nd start and won by 4L. In his 3rd start he was part of a Tapit exacta with his 2nd place finish to fellow Tapit colt Constitution who raced without blinkers. In that race he was close to the pace and  weakened. He is now expected to close over 9F against the speedy Fabulous Kid. If he wins the Peter Pan I would be surprise.

Tapicero: This is a slow but interesting colt. He has 2 wins from 6 starts. In his 1st start he was fitted with a F8 and finished 2nd. The blinkers were affixed for his next 3 starts with the F8 used in one and of the races. He ran well without actually winning. His next 2 starts were over 1m & 1m 70yrds and with the blinkers removed, he won each race by 7L closing from 10L & 15L off the pace. The final times were slow but he was geared down in each victory. It’s difficult to gauge speed a Calder. Fellow Peter Pan entrant Our Caravan won over 9F at Calder defeating Tampa Bay Derby winner Ring Weekend by 9L in a time of 1:54.

If Our Caravan is has a projected 5-1 chance of winning the PP, Tapicero with some improvement from his last race must have a chance to upset ML favorite Tonalist despite his ML of 15-1.  

09 May 2014 1:40 AM
Coldfacts

Bay of Plenty: This colt must have some soundness issues as he is sparingly raced. He was expected to contest the IL Derby and never showed up. He has won two races against overmatched opponents and it is unlikely that he will contest the Belmont.

I cannot think of any impressive 2014 allowance winner from Kiaran McLaughlin’s barn that has contested a G1. The Belmont will certainly not be on the docket for Bay of Plenty. In any event he would probably finish last. I have no confidence in this trainer as his runners are just too inconsistent.

09 May 2014 1:52 AM
LanceS

The Peter Pan has always been an interesting race for people like me who are big fans of the great Seattle Slew.  Both of Slew's Hall of Fame sons won the race, and 7 of the last 9 winners have had Slew in the first three generations - three sons of Pulpit, sons of Mineshaft and Malibu Moon, a son of Lemon Drop Kid, and a son of Slew's stakes winning daughter Alternate.

Interestingly, this year's edition has a strong chance of continuing that pattern, with 6 of the 7 entrants having Slew up close - three sons of Tapit, sons of A.P. Indy and Congrats (that one out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare) and a son of an A.P. Indy mare.

I guess they just like one turn 9 furlong races!

09 May 2014 9:55 AM
-Keelerman

It was announced this morning that General a Rod, the eleventh-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, will run in the Preakness Stakes: www.drf.com/.../general-rod-will-run-preakness-following-11th-derby

09 May 2014 10:11 AM
Pedigree Ann

Keelerman - I don't count any race run by a closer, like Wicked Strong, at face value when it occurs at Stronach Speedway East, aka Gulfstream Park. If you are farther back than a length or so at the top of the stretch, there is no way to win there, especially at 2 turns, these days. Danza, Wicked Strong, and Intense Holiday all had to go out of town to find a fairer track on which to show their stuff.

And why wouldn't a horse who won their maiden at 2 come back and win an allowance at 3? Early maturity and the others have caught up? Caught a lousy group of MSW runners (it happens) and isn't all that good? Is in a growth spurt and hasn't yet gotten his coordination back? Many reasons other than injury for this to happen.

09 May 2014 1:13 PM
Ranagulzion

Keelerman: The Preakness this year will be the toughest Triple Crown race and even if California Chrome prevails he could be punch-drunk at the end because of having to overcome the extra classy Social Inclusion. At this moment I don't see catching the Pioneerof The Nile colt but its going to be an exciting race.

In the Peter Pan I fancy Our Caravan to play catch me if you can.

09 May 2014 7:45 PM
Mary Zinke

I like RJ's top, Matterhorn.  That is, believing Matterhorn's excuses are good enough.  Bad starts last two.  Then Tonalist, Commissioner, the Oaklwan one, Kid.

10 May 2014 2:56 AM
Coldfacts

General A Rod's trainer stated that he was full of energy after the Derby. Where was this energy during the running of the race? A similar statement was made by the connections of Ride On Curlin. Energy packed horses were no shows in the Derby and are now expected to show up in the Preakness. Interesting! I guess a different track and shorter distance might just workout for them.

Some also ran's from the Derby have won the Preakness. The most famous has to be Louis Quatorze who finished 16th in the Derby and returned to win the Preakness in a NSR.

Irrespective of who wins I hope the Preakness is a much better race than the Derby.

10 May 2014 7:39 AM
Pedigree Ann

Ranagulzion - on what do you base the statement that Social Inclusion is 'extra classy?' He won a fast allowance race at the Speedway East, leading throughout after recording a 24-second first quarter. He ran in the Wood Memorial on/near the lead and ran out of gas on a more demanding surface, beaten by two horses whom California Chrome beat by open daylight in the Derby. How does this make him 'extra classy?'

10 May 2014 7:58 AM
Rusty Weisner

Coldfacts,

ROC seemed to have plenty of energy to me.  Did you see the zig zag trip his jockey took him on, particularly the zag coming into the stretch?  This is not the type of horse I like to win the Preakness, but his tough 7th place seems good enough to get him on the board in Pimlico.

10 May 2014 8:18 AM
Secreteriat

I like Tonalist, Metahorn,Fabulous Kid and Commissioer.

T Pletcher has a way with winning with the higher odds horse ala Danza. I will not let him fool me again like he did with Intense Holiday!

10 May 2014 8:47 AM
Brontexx

Keelerman  yes Legend came out of a key race I was following but I didnt bet him.As far as the Belmont Stakes, I dont expect Bay of Plenty to run and Legend just broke his maiden so I wouldnt expect him either.

I expect Wicked Strong to run in the Belmont.

10 May 2014 8:56 AM
Coldfacts

Rusty Weisner,

I must concede I have not done any analysis on the also ran's in the Derby. With the slow fractions and the leaders with the exception of CC stopping all over the place, it was not a good representation of America's premiere race for 3YO.

Is CC that good and are the rest that bad? if Honor Code, Top billing, Shared Belief, Hopportunity and Constitution were in the race would they have been toiling behind California Chrome's?

I hope the Preakness provide some answers as to just how good CC is as the Derby did not.

I got off General A Rod when the blinkers were not removed. He secured his most commanding victory without them and has worn them ever since and has become a need to lead horse. If he would lead and win it would be OK but he just battle with no aptitude to pass his opponents.

10 May 2014 11:22 AM
JayJay

I can't remember if I actually hit Submit or not but I posted a comment about Social Inclusion's training.  Since the Wood Memorial, he's had 3 workouts, two at 3Fs and one at 4Fs.   We saw how short he was in the Wood, I'm not sure why he's not even getting a 6F workout.   It's a week before the Preakness...how does this trainer expect him to have the bottom to go in a longer race.  He may be an old school trainer, but it looks more like he's an old school speed horse trainer.

10 May 2014 12:35 PM
Little Bill

Peter Pan bets- Tri box 2 4 6. Super 2w 46 w 46 w all.

Ride on Curlin- I have been wondering all season what all the hoopla is about with this one.

10 May 2014 1:02 PM
-Keelerman

Hello everyone! Sorry for my lack of comments as of late -- things have been very busy! But I'm back now, and looking forward to the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont and the Lazaro Barrera Stakes at Santa Anita Park later this afternoon!

I'm very curious to see how the maiden Irish You Well performs in the Peter Pan. Looking at the Beyer speed figure he received for finishing third in the Illinois Derby last time out, he fits well in this race, and should give a good account of himself. But I do question whether the Beyers assigned to the Illinois Derby runners are accurate, since they seemed a bit high, and I will be using Irish You Well's performance today as a gauge to try and confirm the accuracy of the Illinois Derby numbers.

The reason I'm interested is because Dynamic Impact, the winner of the Illinois Derby, is scheduled to run in the Preakness Stakes next week, and the 102 Beyer he earned for his Illinois Derby victory suggests he could be very competitive. But is the number legitimate? It's an interesting debate! Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?

10 May 2014 1:10 PM
-Keelerman

JayJay;

I have also wondered about Social Inclusion's training pattern, with all of the three- and four-furlong workouts. But at least we know he'll be sharp enough to secure the early lead in the Preakness!

10 May 2014 1:35 PM
-Keelerman

Good luck, Little Bill!

10 May 2014 1:36 PM
-Keelerman

Brontexx;

Yes, I believe Wicked Strong is being pointed toward the Belmont Stakes. Assuming he runs, what do you think of his chances? My first thought is that his deep-closing style isn't really suited to the Belmont Stakes, but on second thought, he actually wasn't that far behind early on in the Wood Memorial, so perhaps he's versatile enough to race in mid-pack in a race like the Belmont. Any thoughts?

10 May 2014 1:40 PM
-Keelerman

Secretariat;

Nice point about the success of the higher-odds Pletcher horses! I really like the fact that John Velazquez has picked up the mount on Matterhorn, and if the colt stays at his 6-1 morning line price, I think that's a more than fair price. Good luck!

10 May 2014 1:44 PM
-Keelerman

Ranagulzion;

Thanks for your thoughts! I have the feeling that we're in for a tremendous renewal of the Preakness Stakes. With California Chrome, Social Inclusion, Bayern, and others ensuring a fast pace, I believe that we'll see a quick final time and very strong speed figures. It should be exciting!

10 May 2014 1:46 PM
Little Bill

Irish You Well- I think he moves up on the off track, might pass those that don't.

10 May 2014 2:55 PM
Brontexx

Keelerman In a match race at 12 panels I would take Wicked Strong over Commanding Curve.At even odds in the Belmont I would take Wicked Strong over Commanding Curve.

10 May 2014 4:10 PM
Pedigree Ann

Bummer. Off track makes the results less useful. Remember last year, Freedom Child romped in the slop and people were all over him as a Belmont candidate? Only black type he earned in his career, retired to stud after 8 starts.

10 May 2014 7:21 PM
Coldfacts

Dynamic Impact: An interesting probable. This big powerful son of Tiznow won his last two starts and gave every indication longer is better. He has tactical speed to say close to the leader and is blessed with stamina. His dam sire Smart Strike has a positive Preakness history. Curlin and Lookin At Lucky who were sired by Smart Strike won the Preakness. The dam of Mine That who finished 2nd in the Preakness was sired by Smart Strike.  The Belmont seems ideal for DI but he should be a worthy Preakness opponent for CC and others.

10 May 2014 9:54 PM
JayJay

Keelerman : Yeah, I think his trainer is going to send him to the lead like a rocket ship and try to steal the race.  It will all depend on whether the track will be fast or if it favors closers.  We anticipated a LOT of speed in the Derby but come race day, only 2 speed horses showed up.  I'm guessing that in the Preakness, Social Inclusion will be the only one in the lead up to the half mile...if he's good and fit, he might take it to the top of the stretch.  I hope they give him at least a 6F workout next week, at least give him a fighting chance.  

Good pick on Tonalist, favorite but he looked good winning and will most likely be the 2nd favorite in the Belmont, and very capable of becoming the spoiler should Chrome win the Preakness.

11 May 2014 1:10 AM
Rusty Weisner

Last year saw a horse, Freedom Child, win the Peter Pan in the slop and he couldn't compete in the Belmont.  This one seems more likely to compete, coming out of that key Gulfstream allowance race.

11 May 2014 9:29 AM
Rusty Weisner

Keelerman,

Wicked Strong had traffic problems in the Derby.  He won't have them in the Belmont.

11 May 2014 9:30 AM
-Keelerman

Did anyone else notice the strong performances that were turned in over the last few days by a pair of Puerto Rican imports? Tonito M. and Roman Approval, who faced each other on seven occasions while competing at Camarero Race Track in Puerto Rico, both made their American debuts this week, with Tonito M. finishing second in the Lazaro Barrera Stakes (gr. III) and Roman Approval finishing second to Bay of Plenty in that May 7th allowance race at Belmont. It will be interesting to see where they turn up in the future!

11 May 2014 1:02 PM
Coldfacts

It would be worthwhile if someone would direct the connections of Social Inclusion to the HOF trainer and 5 time Preakness winner views on equipment change for his speedy colt:

BAYERN – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has decided to take the blinkers off speedy Bayern for Saturday’s 139th Preakness Stakes.

The son of Offlee Wild has pressed the pace in all four of his career starts. He broke his maiden on Jan. 4 wearing blinkers but didn’t have them on for an allowance victory by 15 lengths on Feb. 13 or his third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 12. The blinkers were back on for the Derby Trial (G3) on April 26, when he finished first but was disqualified and placed second.

There appears to be plenty of speed in the Preakness: Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, Pablo Del Monte, Ring Weekend, Social Inclusion and Dynamic Impact have all been prominently placed in their recent races. After the Derby Trial DQ, Baffert said that the colt had to be able to stalk the pace, hence the decision to make the equipment change.

”If we’re going to get him to track horses, track the speed, he needs them off,”

Social Inclusion trains and runs with blinkers. He probably wears them in his stall. This is a one dimensional need to lead colt that has left the gates awkwardly in two of his three starts. Should this recur in the Preakness, he is unlikely to relax for his rider with blinkers on and his race will be over.

If his trainer is unsure how far he wants to go, why not remove the Blinkers and let him relax more and conserve some of his energy. He appears to have stamina limitation at this stage of his career. He needs all the help he can get.

If a trainer that has won the Preakness 5 times can recognize the benefits of removing blinkers from his speedy colt in an expected speed fest race, why shouldn't the connections Social Inclusion take note?   One is never too old to learn.

13 May 2014 9:52 AM
Rusty Weisner

Andrew Beyer had a column today where he complains about only three Derby starters running back.  I don't think it'll win me any money, but he echoed all my thoughts about how the Derby horses are razor sharp and nearly always do well two weeks back.  He also used Normandy Invasion as an example of a missed opportunity, even using the same language I did when I complained about him not running back (I thought he was a "cinch"):  the owners needed to "strike while the iron is hot."  This was interesting, because, according to Beyer, NI's foot problems occurred AFTER they'd already decided not to run him in the Preakness, and I had had the impression it was the other way around, that they kept him out because of a foot problem.

Anyway, the column highlights the reason some of these Preakness wins have been such blowouts (Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Big Brown): small, weak fields.

13 May 2014 11:16 AM
-Keelerman

As the Preakness Stakes draws closer and closer, I can't help but wonder about the striking similarities between Bayern and Paynter, runner-up in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. These similarities, and what they might mean in regard to the Preakness, are the topic of my latest blog post! :)

Here's the link: cs.bloodhorse.com/.../striking-similarities-between-bayern-and-paynter.aspx

13 May 2014 4:16 PM

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