Looking ahead to the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), trainer Todd Pletcher sends out Commissioner and Matterhorn in the $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds May 10, kicking off a big weekend of stakes action at Belmont Park.
Favored at 2-1 on the morning line in his stakes debut is Robert S. Evans' Tonalist.
On May 11, Mother's Day, Belmont presents with the $400,000 Man o' War (gr. IT), the $250,000 Ruffian (gr. II), and the $150,000 Westchester (gr. III). All three races on Sunday will be televised from 4:30-6 p.m. EDT as part of "The Jockey Club Tour on FOX" on Fox Sports 1.
Seven colts are entered in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan, Belmont's traditional prep race for the June 7 "Test of the Champion," worth $1.5 million this year. The Peter Pan is scheduled as the ninth on a 10-race card Saturday and is set to go off at 5:28 p.m. EDT.
Commissioner is a son of 1992 Peter Pan and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner A.P. Indy who was impressive in his first three starts before finishing sixth in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) in February at Gulfstream Park. He rebounded for two-time Belmont-winning trainer Pletcher with a third behind Chitu in the Sunland Derby (gr. III), and was most recently was sixth in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) after acting up before the race.
"Things didn't go well in the paddock and we feel it compromised his chances before he even got out there," said Pletcher of the WinStar Stable color-bearer. "Hopefully we'll correct that and get a true reading on him."
Matterhorn, for whom Coolmore paid $625,000 as a 2-year-old in training, will be making his first stakes start after finishing third against older horses at the Peter Pan distance March 28 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"We were very impressed by Matterhorn's debut," said Pletcher of the Tapit colt's first outing in November. "He spent part of the winter playing catch up. I think similar to what we saw in Wicked Strong , he did not particularly care for Gulfstream's surface. At the time he ran (February) it was very speed-favoring. I thought his last start was better than it looked on paper. Hopefully that will set him up well for this."
Matterhorn, 6-1 on the morning line, drew the rail under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Commissioner, with Javier Castellano aboard, will leave from post 3 at 5-2 on the morning line.
From the barn of Christophe Clement, better-known for his outstanding success with turf horses, Tonalist enters the Peter Pan off three starts. He was most recently second to subsequent Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Constitution in a Feb. 22 allowance at 1 1/16 miles.
The Tapit colt was kept off the early Triple Crown trail with a lung infection. Clement has been delighted with the way he is coming into Saturday's race and is also looking ahead to a possible start in the Belmont.
"I'm excited," said Clement. "Let's go."
Joel Rosario has the mount from gate 4.
Anstu Stables' Our Caravan (5-1) also comes with a big shot. He has made four career starts, bracketing two off-the-board stakes appearances at Gulfstream Park with a maiden win at that track and a 9 3/4-length victory in the Calder Derby April 4.
"He's been training great," said conditioner Michael Dilger, of the Daaher colt. "I think the speed bias at Gulfstream Park (for the grade II Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth) didn't play to his strength. We're hoping he runs well enough to earn a spot in the Belmont."
Our Caravan will tote high weight of 120 pounds, giving four pounds to his rivals. He drew post position 6 with Jose Lezcano in the irons.
Drs. Kalarikkal and Vilasini Jayaram, who campaigned 2009 Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, are looking to return to the final leg of racing's Triple Crown with their homebred Fabulous Kid. The son of Congrats won his debut at Oaklawn Park March 29 and returned there two weeks later to finish third, beaten less than a length, in the one-mile Northern Spur.
"I've had him about two weeks now, and he's been doing everything right," said new trainer Jimmy Toner of Fabulous Kid, who drew post 2 and was listed at 4-1 on the morning line.
Rounding out the field are the Wayne Catalano-trained Irish You Well, a maiden who most recently finished third in the Illinois Derby (gr. III) in his seventh career start, and Tapicero, who is 2-2-1 from six career starts in Florida.
$200,000 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II, Race 9, 5:28 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Matterhorn (KY), J R Velazquez, 116, T A Pletcher, 6/1
2. Fabulous Kid (FL), J Alvarado, 116, J J Toner, 4/1
3. Commissioner (KY), J Castellano, 116, T A Pletcher, 5/2
4. Tonalist (KY), J Rosario, 116, C Clement, 2/1
5. Tapicero (KY), E J Zayas, 116, M Morales, 20/1
6. Our Caravan (KY), J Lezcano, 120, M Dilger, 5/1
7. Irish You Well (KY), I Ortiz Jr., 116, W M Catalano, 15/1