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.
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?