After a pair of narrow defeats in Kentucky Derby prep races this
spring at Fair Grounds Race Course, Mark Valeski earned his first
graded stakes win Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park when he captured
the 58th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes, the local
springboard to the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 9.
Caught wide out of the gate, Mark Valeski settled well
off the rail in midpack as longshot Right to Vote swiftly guided the
field through opening fractions of 22.71 and 45.35.
Swung four wide
turning for home, Mark Valeski was put to a drive through the stretch,
wresting the lead away from the pacesetter just past the eighth pole
and going on to a 1 ¼-length victory. A determined Right to Vote held
sway over Street Life, who closed from last to get third.
Mark Valeski’s final time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:48.31. Sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the field of 10, he returned $4.70.
“The horse felt great and did everything right,” said
winning jockey Rosie Napravnik. “I was a little worried about all the
ground we were losing, but at the same time with the fast pace I didn’t
want to tuck in and get stuck behind, because I knew I was on the best
horse. When I pressed the button, even with all the ground we lost, he
was much the best and ran great today. It should set him up very nicely
for his next race.”
Napravnik also rode Mark Valeski to tough-luck losses in
the Grade 2 Risen Star (a nose to El Padrino) and Grade 2 Louisiana
Derby (a half-length to Hero of Order). Originally pointed for the
Kentucky Derby, the Proud Citizen colt was rerouted to the Peter Pan
after failing to dazzle owner Brereton C. Jones and trainer Larry Jones
in what was to be his final pre-Derby work at Churchill Downs on April
“I kept thinking to myself ‘Well, if we win this thing
by a bunch I’m going to wonder if I should have been at the Derby,’ but
we made the right decision,” said Larry Jones. He [Mr. Brereton C.
Jones] did, to be honest with you, because he doesn’t have the Derby
fever that we’ve got to be there, he said ‘Do what’s right for my
horse.’ And we both agreed after we watched him work at Churchill that
we weren’t just blown away by his work. The filly [Kentucky Oaks winner
Believe You Can] had blown us away the day before, and it was the
Now, Mark Valeski has run his record to 3-2-0 from six
starts and earned $430,952 and Larry Jones thinks his colt could be
ready to take on the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes here next month.
“We’re going to Churchill with him, and then we’ll see
how he comes out and whether we try to come back,” said Jones. “We’re
sure not going to rule it out – we know where Belmont is.”
Good Morning Diva finished fourth, followed by Big
Screen, The Lumber Guy, Hakama, Summer Front, Master Rick and Le
Bernardin. Teeth of the Dog and Zetterholm were scratched.