Head to Head: Handicapping the 2021 Peter Pan Stakes

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2021 Peter Pan Stakes
Photo: Sophie Shore / Eclipse Sportswire

The $200,000, Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes is traditionally a prep for the Belmont Stakes. Contested since the 1940s, the 1 1/8-mile event is named for 1907 Belmont Stakes hero and Hall of Hamer Peter Pan.

This year, Withers (G3) winner Risk Taking takes on Withers runner-up Overtook, Pasco winner Nova Rags, impressive last out winner Promise Keeper, and two others.

Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast and I sort out the short field.

ASHLEY

LAURIE

1. OVERTOOK

Red hot Johnny Velazquez hops aboard Overtook for the first time. Out of the Grade 1 winner Got Lucky and by the esteemed Curlin, Overtook broke his maiden in his third start and then ran second in the Withers (G3). In that race, he brought up the rear of the field then followed winner Risk Taking around the far turn and into the stretch. While Risk Taking was an easy winner, Overtook found his best stride only inside the final 16th, surging to grab second. Overtook did not have the benefit of a hot pace to close into, but he still ran his race. In his first two career starts, Overtook ran fourth behind winner Nova Rags in his debut and then third behind eventual Florida Derby (G1) winner Known Agenda and Holy Bull (G3) and Fountain of Youth (G2) winner Greatest Honour. While Overtook does not have great speed figures, the rail at Belmont is producing winners at a 31 percent clip, and trainer Todd Pletcher is winning at 29 percent rate with runners off a layoff of 90 days or longer. Do note that while Overtook raced with the Repole silks in the Withers, he will be in the St. Elias colors for the Peter Pan.

 

Ashley impressively touched all the main points about Overtook. I don’t have a whole lot to say after that. Bred to run all day, Overtook has zero early speed, and he’s a one-paced closer. He’s seen the tail ends of Risk Taking and Nova Rags in previous races. Vote him most likely to hit the board if there’s a torrid speed duel.

 

2. NOVA RAGS

This son of Union Rags kicked off 2021 with a win in the Pasco. He then ran second in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and fourth in the Florida Derby (G1). In the Sam F. Davis, he tracked the pace in third and gained second in the stretch while trying to run down the winner. In the Florida Derby, Nova Rags raced in second after being bumped at the start but weakened and settled for fourth. Incidentally, the colt earned a career-best 93 speed figure for his fourth in the Florida Derby. I took Nova Rags on top in the Sam F. Davis but passed on him in the Florida Derby, which turned out to be a mistake as he did round out the superfecta. I won’t be passing on him this go-round.

 

Nova Rags stuck like a buttered crumb to Soup and Sandwich’s flank in the Florida Derby until the 1/8 pole, when the pretty gray horse brushed him off. The son of Union Rags got a little tired in his first try at nine furlongs, so Bill Mott drilled him with back-to-back bullet works at Payson. Nova Rags has tactical speed, and I agree with Ashley: Nova Rags will be dangerous in a small field.

3. PROMISE KEEPER

I had Promise Keeper in my selections for the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) off his flashy maiden-breaking performance in the slop at Gulfstream. Luis Saez gunned him from post 11 to establish a good position early. They were in the mix in the far turn, but as others were hitting their best strides, Promise Keeper came up empty. To add insult to injury, Promise Keeper had to steady off the heels of Moonlite Strike and looked to exchange bumps with Candy Man Rocket, eventually finishing last. He rebounded from that effort with a smart score in allowance company at Keeneland at the Peter Pan distance of 1 1/8-mile. He earned a 95 speed figure for that race, giving him one of the best speed figures in the field. I’m willing to put a line through the Tampa Bay Derby and give this colt another shot in graded company.

 

I liked Promise Keeper so much in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), I picked him on top. Unfortunately, he has a win/lose cycle going on, and he broke that promise, finishing dead last. Not one of the finer moments for either of us.  Constitution’s son couldn’t have looked more impressive when winning against optional claimers by 5 1/2 lengths in his last start at Keeneland. He could keep the pressure on Nova Rags in the Peter Pan, and if this Pletcher trainee can string two good races together, he’ll be dangerous.

 

4. WOLFIE'S DYNAGHOST

Wolfie’s Dynaghost debuted a winner in November in what turned out to be a key race. It produced Gotham (G3) winner Weyburn, Lexington (G3) runner-up Unbridled Honor, Federico Tesio winner The Reds, and Wood Memorial (G2) runner-up Dynamic One. Unfortunately, something went amiss for the half-brother to grade one turf star Sadler’s Joy, and he has not raced since his debut. With the dimensions of the Belmont track, though this will be Wolfie’s Dynaghost’s first attempt at a route distance, it still will be a one-turn race, which should aid in the transition from seven to nine furlongs. Jose Ortiz picks up the mount for trainer Thomas Albertrani.

 

Albertrani picked an unusual spot for Wolfie's Dynaghost to make his 3-year-old debut. As Ashley noted, he beat nice colts in his sole start. This promising half-brother to multiple graded winning turf router Sadler's Joy has a turf-oriented family and a bright future – just not in here. In the last five years, Albertrani has a 4 percent win rate with horses off a long layoff. He would have to be special to win, but I can see him making an impact on the outcome.

 

5. I AM THE LAW

Still a maiden, I Am the Law will be making his third career start and graded debut in the Peter Pan. Both prior starts were one-mile affairs at Aqueduct; he finished third on debut and then second last out, with his speed figure jumping 10 points from his first to his second race. In his debut, I Am the Law came from off the pace to nab the lead in the stretch only to be passed by the top two. In his second start, he once again came from off the pace, getting up for second to miss the win by 3/4 length in the fog. Sire Mshawish was a Grade 1 winner on turf and dirt, and I Am the Law’s second dam is none other than the pride of New Mexico, Pepper’s Pride. While it appears strange that John Terranova would enter a maiden in graded stakes race, it seems as though he is looking to stretch this colt out as I Am the Law was cross-entered in a 1 3/8-mile turf maiden special weight (as a main-track-only entrant) on May 6. Could be a live long shot.

 

This maiden son of second-crop sire Mshawish had a promising debut. The track was labeled muddy but looked closer to good. I Am The Law looked like a winner in the stretch but was passed late. In his next start over a sloppy track, he was stuck on the rail for most of the race. The extra real estate should help, but the jury is still out on how classy he might be.

6. RISK TAKING

Withers (G3) winner Risk Taking scratched from the Peter Pan in favor of the Preakness.

 

 

Final Thoughts

Laurie:
Only three closers won in the last decade. So far this meet, pacesetters/pressers have won nine of 13 routes.

Nova Rags fits the running style of previous winners. Plus, two consecutive bullets out of a horse from the Mott barn has my attention.  None of these horses are need-the-lead types, so flip a coin between Nova Rags and Wolfie’s Dynaghost, and maybe Promise Keeper, to see who breaks the best and grabs the lead. I suspect that with speed to his outside, Junior Alvarado on Nova Rags will either lead or sit a close second, keeping the pacesetter to his outside wide.

Ashley:  Nova Rags and Promise Keeper will be your likely pacesetters, with Promise Keeper being the only one of the two to actually set the pace rather than simply be on it.

As such, I think the pace will be quite reasonable. Wolfie’s Dynaghost would do well to not let that pair put too much space in front of him; the same goes for closers I Am the Law and Overtook.

There is 40 percent chance of rain at Belmont for Peter Pan day. In the event that the track does come up off, give Promise Keeper a hard look as he has a win on a sloppy track. Also take a good look at I Am the Law as both his races were run in the mud.


SELECTIONS

Ashley

 

Laurie

 

#2 Nova Rags (5-2)

#2 Nova Rags (5-2)

#3 Promise Keeper (7-2)

#3 Promise Keeper (7-2)

#5 I Am The Law (30-1)

#4 Wolfie's Dynaghost (9-2)

 



Meet Laurie Ross


 HRN Pedigree Analyst 

 Handicapper 

 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 ThoroFan Board Member

 Member – NTWAB


Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 


I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
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LinkedIn: Laurie Ross

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