Can Unified Stretch Out in the Peter Pan Stakes?

 By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Now that the Kentucky Derby is over, things are starting to calm down a bit in the world of Thoroughbred horse racing, but that doesn't mean this weekend is going to be a quiet one! A quality group of stakes races is on the agenda, led by the $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park, a major prep for the June 11th Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Let's take a look at the entries!

#HorseJockeyTrainerLast race
1Supah CzechJose LezcanoMichael Gorham1st Maiden Special Weight (VIDEO)
2SingletonManuel FrancoNick Zito4th Maiden Special Weight (VIDEO)
3AdventistIrad Ortiz, Jr.Leah Gyarmati3rd Wood Memorial (gr. I) (VIDEO)
4Decorated SoldierJohn VelazquezTodd Pletcher1st Northern Spur Stakes (VIDEO)
5Governor MalibuJoel RosarioChristophe Clement2nd Federico Tesio Stakes (VIDEO)
6Wild About DebTrevor McCarthyPhilip D’Amato1st Maiden Special Weight (VIDEO)
7UnifiedJose OrtizJimmy Jerkens1st Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO)
8Lost IronJunior AlvaradoBill Mott1st Maiden Special Weight (VIDEO)

One of the best-known horses in the Peter Pan is Adventist, who broke his maiden by 11 ¼ lengths in December at Aqueduct before finishing third in the Withers Stakes (gr. III), Gotham Stakes (gr. III), and Wood Memorial (gr. III), beaten by an average of just two lengths in each race. These performances left him just short of qualifying to the Kentucky Derby, and thanks to his solid record in graded stakes company and status as a Derby contender, he should draw a lot of wagering support in the Peter Pan.

But the Peter Pan will mark Adventist's first start away from Aqueduct, and the form of Aqueduct's Kentucky Derby prep races was not flattered when some of Adventist's main rivals from the series-Shagaf, Outwork, and Trojan Nation-finished well back in the Derby. Furthermore, Adventist received pretty ideal trips in both the Wood Memorial and Gotham, settling off the pace in races that featured solid early paces and very slow closing fractions, but he still couldn't seal the deal.

For these reasons, I think Adventist can be beaten, and I think Unified is the most likely to do so. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Unified is unbeaten and unchallenged in two starts so far, winning a six-furlong maiden special weight at Gulfstream by three lengths in 1:08.95 seconds before following up with a similarly easy win in the seven-furlong Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct, in which he stopped the clock in 1:22.86.

Watching Unified run, it's easy to get the feeling that you're watching something special, like a future grade I winner in action. Although he's only sprinted so far, his pedigree (by Candy Ride out of the Dixie Union mare Union City) is strong, and I don't think he'll have any trouble with the nine furlongs of the Peter Pan Stakes, especially since the race is held around one turn. Furthermore, as the only true front-runner in the race, he should be able to seize the early advantage and control the pace, although drawing post seven gives him the option of settling off the lead as well. To me, Unified looks like a very talented horse that will be tough to beat in this race.

For the exacta and trifecta, I would strongly consider Decorated Soldier and Wild About Deb. The former broke his maiden by 7 ½ lengths at Tampa Bay Downs on March 12th, then stretched out to a mile and overcame a very wide trip to win the Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn by a neck. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who has won the Peter Pan three times, Decorated Soldier has excellent tactical speed and a grinding style that suggests he could do well with more distance. I think he could wind up being a legitimate Belmont Stakes contender, so I wouldn't overlook him this Saturday.

As for Wild About Deb, he finished second to the future stakes winner Uncle Lino in his debut at Del Mar last November, then returned from a four-month layoff to win a nine-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita in 1:49.02 seconds. That race was on the same day as the Santa Anita Derby, and Wild About Deb actually recorded a faster final time than Exaggerator did in the feature race, although the track seemed to slow down as the day went on and Wild About Deb received a Beyer speed figure of 90 compared to Exaggerator's 103. Still, Wild About Deb's performance was eye-catching, as he won by six lengths with the talented next-out maiden winner Prince of Arabia finishing third.

Given how well California-based three-year-olds have performed while shipping out of town this year-Nyquist and Exaggerator ran 1-2 in the Kentucky Derby, Cupid and Collected have won graded stakes races, and the maidens Laoban, Trojan Nation, and One More Round placed in graded stakes races-I think it would be wise to give Wild About Deb a very close look in the Peter Pan Stakes. Although I still believe Unified is the most likely winner, Wild About Deb could offer great value for the exacta, and in the event that Unified goes off at a short price, Wild About Deb could be worth a win bet and inclusion in the multi-race wagers as well.

I would also like to briefly mention Governor Malibu, who has crossed the finish line first in three straight races, including the nine-furlong Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park, which he won by a nose before being disqualified to second. He's got a nice record and has faced some good horses, including the two-time stakes winner Awesome Speed, but against a field of this caliber, the bottom of the superfecta might be the best he can achieve.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Peter Pan Stakes?


J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website

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