A solid field of 12 sophomore males make up a very interesting Saturday afternoon feature at Belmont Park tomorrow in the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes. There will be at least one scratch in the traditional steppingstone for the final leg of the Triple Crown, however, as we know Teeth of the Dog, and probably Zetterholm will sit it out to point for the Preakness. The favorite, and deservedly so, will be the Brereton Jones owned and Larry Jones trained, Mark Valeski. Narrowly defeated in his first two attempts around two turns, the son of Proud Citizen enters the Peter Pan in fine fettle after consecutive strong performances in the Grade 2 Risen Star and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. He recently skipped the Kentucky Derby to instead find something a little easier. Mission accomplished, but this 1 1/8 mile affair is far from a pushover.
A number of promising candidates lie in waiting to upset the New Orleans shipper in hopes of making a statement over the track in advance of the Belmont Stakes. The one that most interests me will be the attractive bay colt, Summer Front. The son of War Front lost his last start when second in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes over Keeneland’s synthetic main track, but still brings a sterling record into the Peter Pan. The Christophe Clement trainee won his first three career starts, each of which was on the turf, including two stakes, before finishing strongly to beat all but All Squared Away in the Lexington, despite coming in off a four-month layoff. His generally reserved trainer is outwardly positive about the young star.
“I’m excited about him,” Clement said. “He’s been training very well and he looks very well. I’ve got a small question mark because I’ve never run him on dirt, that’s the big deal, but we’ve got to try him, and we’ll see what happens. It’s a good race, plenty of speed. As long as we get a good reading, that’s all I want – a good reading so we can decide what to do after that.”
It would seem the options are many. We already know, Summer Front is a potential star on the grass, but for now, the lure of big prizes on the dirt is too enticing to pass up. Not only does his pedigree promise to be the kind that can handle any surface, but Summer Front also turned an excellent six furlong work over the Belmont Park main track this past Sunday. Considering he was probably in need of the race last time, it’s hard not to appreciate the excellent record and consistent rally of the two-time stakes winner.
He is overlaid at 8-1 on the morning line, despite having arguably the most solid past performances in the field, and should appreciate the promise of a contested early pace to rally into. If he does indeed take to dirt like his breeding and latest workout suggest, the nine furlongs around only one-turn in the Peter Pan should suit him perfectly.
Admittedly, Mark Valeski is the horse to beat tomorrow, but if you are looking to beat the favorite like I am, take a long look at Summer Front, he may just be a budding star.