Darley Stable's Oratory peeled away from the field in upper stretch for a commanding stakes record victory in the $200,000 Peter Pan (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park Saturday.
The Tom Albertrani-trained son of Pulpit
, ridden confidently by Jerry Bailey, completed the nine furlongs in a sparkling 1:46 1/5 to win by 4 3/4 lengths in the one-turn event. He knocked three ticks off the stakes mark of 1:46 4/5 established in 1983 by Slew o' Gold and was four-fifths of a second off Secretariat's track record set on September 15, 1973 in the now defunct Marlboro Cup.
The $3.3 million-colt Chekhov, the 3-2 favorite trained by Patrick Biancone, launched a bid from the outside on the turn for Gary Stevens after bumping at the start and being well back early, but flattened out in the stretch and finished fourth.
Oratory, who earned $120,000 in his stakes debut, is not nominated for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on June 11, meaning Darley would have to put up $100,000 to run in the final jewel of the Triple Crown.
"I think the Belmont will be mostly unlikely," Albertrani said. "Before we make any decisions, we'll let Sheikh Mohammed decide if he wants to do that or not."
Breaking from the outside post in the field of eight, Bailey sent the Kentucky-bred bay colt to the front immediately where he settled into a slow pace while leading through the opening quarter mile in :24 with Reverberate and Jose Santos pressuring from the inside. Reverberate led at the half-mile point in :47 2/5 and continued to hold a slight edge over Oratory through the turn after completing six furlongs in 1:11. As they came out of the turn, Oratory grabbed the lead without being asked. He drew clear under moderate urging and was never threatened in the stretch.
"He finished very, very well," said Bailey. "I didn't intend to be on the lead, they just gave it to me."
"He always has that late acceleration," said Albertrani, who was also surprised his horse was on the lead early. "He just accelerated away from them in the stretch."
Reverberate held on for second, 6 1/2 lengths in front of the stalking Golden Man and Edgar Prado, who finished third.
The 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes may be in the works for Reverberate, a son of 1995 Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and Travers (all gr. I) winner Thunder Gulch
"It looked like he just got beat by a better horse today," said trainer Sal Russo. "I thought he ran very, very well.
"We're going to think about the Belmont. It comes back pretty quick. He's a nice colt, and he's still learning. The Travers is certainly in my mind."
Oratory had four previous starts, all at Aqueduct, winning twice and finishing second twice. He was coming off a runner-up showing, beaten by a length, as the 3-5 favorite in a 1 1/8-mile allowance heat April 30. Bailey replaced Shaun Bridgmohan in the saddle Saturday.
Louie Roussel III bred the winner, who was produced by the Dehere mare Arrested Dreams. Oratory was purchased as a yearling at Keeneland in 2003 for $100,000.
The winner paid $12.80, $5.80, and $4.20 as the third choice in the field. Reverberate, who was coming off an allowance win at Belmont Park May 8, returned $8.30 and $5.10. Golden Man, a Florida shipper claimed for $60,000 by Richard Dutrow Jr. in January, was $4 to show.
After Chekhov came Robador, Sir Greeley, Gorbash, and Mr Sword.
"He got bumped at the start," said Biancone of Chekhov. "He's a big baby and he got a little scared. Lack of maturity might have hurt today."
The Peter Pan has produced five Belmont winners, beginning with Coastal in 1979. The others were Danzig Connection in 1986, A.P. Indy in 1992, Colonial Affair in 1993, and Lemon Drop Kid in 1999.