Mark Valeski Rewards Jones in Peter Pan
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Mark Valeski and Rosie Napravnik are in command in the Peter Pan.

Larry Jones decided Mark Valeski   was not ready for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) last week and instead opted to run the 3-year-old colt in the $200,000 Peter Pan (gr. II) (VIDEO) May 12 at Belmont Park. It sure looked like the trainer made the right decision when the son of Proud Citizen   took over at mid-stretch and scored by 1 1/4 lengths under the red-hot Rosie Napravnik.

Following a bullet work at Belmont May 7, Jones had Mark Valeski ready to go in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan, and after a stalking trip while wide into the lane the favorite overtook 47-1 longshot pacesetter Right to Vote en route to his first stakes victory. The final time in the one-turn race on a fast track was 1:48.31.

Mark Valeski is a Kentucky homebred of Brereton Jones. The owner-breeder, trainer, and jockey all teamed up to win the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) last weekend with Believe You Can.

Mark Valeski entered the Pater Pan off two runner-up finishes at Fair Grounds in the Feb. 25 Risen Star (gr. II) and April 1 Louisiana Derby (gr. II). This was his third victory from six lifetime starts.

Right to Vote wasted no time getting to the lead under Alex Solis, breaking from the inside and speeding through fractions of :22.71, :45.35, and 1:09.52. The Lumber Guy  , winner of the Jerome (gr. II) last out, pressed the pace into the stretch, while Le Bernardin, Big Screen, and Mark Valeski raced in the next group.

Despite setting brisk fractions, Right to Vote was still running strong when he came off the turn, but Mark Valeski ranged up four-wide and took over just beyond the eighth pole. He had to work to keep Right to Vote at bay in the final furlong, but was able to prevail under steady urging from Napravnik.

Street Life closed well to get up for third under Jose Lezcano. Good Morning Diva was a distant fourth in a field of 10 sophomores.

“The horse felt great and did everything right," Napravnik said. "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.”

With his win, Mark Valeski upped his career earnings to $430,952. The winner is out of the Fortunate Prospect mare Pocho’s Dream Girl.

"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," Larry Jones said. "(Brereton 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.’
 
“We’re going to Churchill with him, and then we’ll see how he comes out and whether we try to come back (for the grade I Belmont Stakes on June 9) or what our next plan is. There are plenty for options for him.
 
"We’re sure going to look (at the Belmont) because it sure looked like he handled this track well, and slowing the fractions down a little bit he’s going to carry that speed a lot farther. He’ll probably be a forward factor in the Belmont, especially if Bodemeister   and them rip each other apart in the Preakness. We’ll see how the Preakness turns out and who’s left available. We’re sure not going to rule it out; we know where Belmont is.”
 
A.P. Indy, in 1992, was the last horse to win the Peter Pan and come back to take the Belmont Stakes.

The winner paid $4.70, $3.30, and $2.80 as the favorite. Right to Vote returned $24.60 and $14, and filled out a $136 exacta (5-1). The trifecta (5-1-12) was worth $1,207.

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