Because of their presence on the Triple Crown trail, Mark Valeski and The Lumber Guy are probably the better known names right now, but Waterford Stable’s Summer Front has the potential to be one of the brightest 3-year-old stars in the country. He could be the one to beat in the $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) May 12 at Belmont Park.
The 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan, the main local prep for the June 9 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), drew a full field of a dozen 3-year-olds. Summer Front, a lightly-raced son of War Front trained by Christophe Clement, rallied well to finish second as the favorite in the April 21 Lexington (gr. II) on the Keeneland Polytrack in his season debut. As a juvenile, he was undefeated in three turf starts, including a pair of stakes victories.
The Peter Pan will be the first dirt start for Summer Front. The bay colt will be ridden by New York’s top jockey, Ramon Dominguez, who won this event a year ago with Alternation. They will break from post 11.
Summer Front, 8-1 on the morning line, worked once since the Lexington, breezing a solid six furlongs in 1:12 2/5 May 6 at Belmont.
Summer Front was bred in Kentucky by Graceville Breeding and is out of the El Prado mare Rose of Summer. He was a $475,000 purchase at the Keeneland April 2011 2-year-olds in training sale.
Brereton Jones’ homebred Mark Valeski was eligible to get into the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) based on earnings. But trainer Larry Jones opted for the Peter Pan instead, saying last week he was not “wowed” by the colt's last work at Churchill Downs. Since then, Jones shipped the son of Proud Citizen to Belmont and on May 7 Mark Valeski breezed five furlongs in a stellar :59 3/5, the best of 32 at the distance.
“It wasn’t because we didn’t have confidence in the horse,” said Jones of the decision to bypass the Derby. “He’s a nice horse. But we felt he was still a week or two away from being at his best, and we didn’t want to run him at Churchill Downs if he wasn’t at his best. But that’s me, a week late and a couple of dollars short.
“That (work) was what we were looking for from him. Rosie (Napravnik) said he was playing and full of energy coming back. We’re looking for a good race and looking ahead to races like the Travers (gr. I, Aug. 25, Saratoga) for him.”
Mark Valeski was second in both the Risen Star (gr. II) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in his past two starts. He will be ridden once again by Napravnik, who became the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) on May 4 aboard Believe You Can for Brereton Jones and Larry Jones.
Mark Valeski was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
Barry Schwartz’s The Lumber Guy set the pace but tired to finish fifth in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) two starts back, but rebounded impressively in the one-mile Jerome (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack in his latest try on April 7. He had been under consideration for the May 19 Preakness (gr. I) but his connections opted for the Peter Pan following his five-furlong breeze in 1:00 4/5 at Belmont May 7.
“He’s been doing very well since the Jerome,” said trainer Mike Hushion. “We’ll have to go two turns with him sometime. But if we do the right thing by the horse now, maybe there’s a big race for him down the road.”
Mike Luzzi will ride The Lumber Guy, who is the 4-1 second choice on the Peter Pan morning line.
Stepping into stakes company is Darley Stable’s regally bred Le Bernardin, who fetched $325,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton sales at Saratoga in 2010. The son of Bernardini , out of the Wild Again mare La Rose, broke his maiden at second asking March 10 at Aqueduct and next was a tenacious three-quarter-length winner against older horses going a mile on April 7.
“We’ve never been happier with the way he’s training,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “We think the distance is a plus for him. He’s grown up over the winter, and his last two races were impressive. He’s improving, and we hope he keeps improving. This is a big step up.”
$200,000 Peter Pan (gr. II, Race 6, 5:06 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer