The Peter Pan (G2) holds the most interest of four graded stakes races at Belmont Park Saturday, with the 1 1/8-mile event having the potential to produce multiple starters for the Belmont Stakes (G1) four weeks later. It’s the third leg of an All-Stakes Pick 4.
Tonalist, who derailed California Chrome’s 2014 Triple Crown bid, is the last horse to complete the Peter Pan-Belmont Stakes double.
Unified has been installed as the 4-5 morning line choice following a pair of smashing sprint wins for Jimmy Jerkens, capturing his debut by three lengths at Gulfstream Park before coming back to win the 7-furlong Bay Shore (G3) by the same margin on the Wood Memorial undercard. He must still prove himself over a route of ground, but the one-turn trip figures to benefit the talented front-runner and the Belmont Stakes is a likely destination with another wire-to-wire victory.
I respect his chances, including Unified in multi-race wagers, but hope to beat the short-priced favorite.
A couple of smart last-out maiden winners at the distance, Lost Iron and Wild About Deb, will make the jump straight to stakes company in the Belmont Stakes prep. Wild About Deb invades for Phil d’Amato off a six-length tally over a sloppy Santa Anita track and the Eskendereya colt looks very promising. Lost Iron appears to have turned the corner for Bill Mott with the addition of blinkers, rolling to a two-length decision from just off the pace at Aqueduct, and the improving son of Flatter will also be used on tickets.
The connections of Adventist have serious Belmont Stakes aspirations and the bay colt doesn’t have to win the Peter Pan, he just needs to keep moving forward with a strong finish. Adventist was light on seasoning this winter, capturing his career debut over the inner track in December before recording consecutive thirds in the Withers (G3), Gotham (G3) and Wood (G1), and missing the Kentucky Derby (excluded due to insufficient points) was probably a blessing for the developing 3yo.
Decorated Soldier is my top selection. Listed at 6-1 on the morning line, the chestnut colt broke his maiden by a 7 ½-length margin the second time out, a 6 ½-furlong maiden at Tampa Bay Downs, before capturing his two-turn bow in the April 16 Northern Spur at Oaklawn. I liked the gameness he displayed posting a neck decision last time and expect further improvement from the Todd Pletcher charge, who has registered respectable BRIS Speed ratings in the mid-90s this year. Decorated Soldier should appreciate Saturday’s added ground and will look to strike from just off the speed.
The one-mile Ruffian (G2) kicks off the All-Stakes Pick 4 and Carrumba is the horse to beat. The 4yo will make her second start of the year for Shug McGaughey, capturing the Top Flight (G2) at Aqueduct, and the up-and-coming filly possesses superior BRIS Speed ratings. Carrumba has never finished worse than second in seven career starts and the Ruffian is a projected springboard to the Ogden Phipps (G1), which should feature a tremendous field on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
Multiple Grade 1 winner Cavorting runs her best races in New York, but her only graded stakes wins have come against 3yo rivals at shorter distances. I’ll play against the classy filly at short odds, singling Carrumba in the Ruffian.
The Beaugay (G3) features eight turf distaffers and I’ll use My Miss Sophia and Recepta. The 1 1/16-mile race serves as the local prep for the Just a Game (G1) on June 11.
After capturing her turf debut last June, My Miss Sophia squared off Tepin and other classy foes in her next three outings, finishing close in the Diana (G1) and Ballston Spa (G2) before concluding the year with a third in the First Lady (G1). Bill Mott does well off the extended layoff and My Miss Sophia should receive a favorable trip with her tactical speed.
Recepta captured her last start over the Belmont turf, the Noble Damsel (G3) last fall, and can move forward for Jimmy Toner off her seasonal bow, a fifth to Tepin in the April 16 Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland.
The Man o’ War (G1), a feeder for the Manhattan (G1), concludes the stakes action with a well-matched field of nine. The inconsistent Up With the Birds received a solid tightener when fifth in Keeneland’s Elkhorn (G2) and the Grade 1-winning 6yo has run well over Belmont’s turf, posting a win and a second from two attempts. He rates top billing and I’ll include Kaigun, Wake Forest and longshot Cant’thelpbelieving in horizontal exotics.
Decorated Soldier photo courtesy of Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography