Jockey John Velazquez got the high-spirited colt Purge to relax while racing on the outside of the pacesetters and the colt responded to the easy handling with a quarter-mile to go to register a sparkling victory in the $200,000 Peter Pan (gr. II) at Belmont Park Saturday.
After getting the lead at the head of the stretch, the son of Pulpit
, who has lost twice to Triple Crown candidate Smarty Jones, got a couple of cracks from the whip with about three-sixteenths of a mile to the wire and he spurted away from the field. He won by 6 3/4 lengths.
"He was a little aggressive, but at least he let me calm him down," Velasquez said. " He got into a good rhythm where I wasn't pulling too much and neither was he. When I asked him to run, he was there."
Todd Pletcher trains Purge, who could take another shot at Smarty Jones in the June 5 Belmont for owners Starlight Stables and partners.
"We didn't really plan on running in the Belmont, so we'll play it by ear," Pletcher said. "I would say that anything is a possibility."
Swingforthefences, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, emerged from the pack after being outrun early to gain second, 1 1/4 length in front of 17-10 favorite Master David.
"He ran a real good race, but I doubt he's going to the Belmont," trainer Rick Violette said of the runner-up. "If he was a legitimate mile-and-a-half horse, then you would have to say `yes.' But there are so many options and it is still a long year that you can skip the Belmont and wait for a right spot. We wouldn't go just to run, we don't need a free table that badly. Besides, there is only one horse that can beat Smarty Jones. That's Smarty Jones.
Master David, the Bobby Frankel trainee ridden by Alex Solis, was dead last in the field 10 after the opening half mile. Still ninth after six furlongs, they put together a nice finish while racing in the center of the course. Frankel said afterward that he doubted that he would take Master David to the Belmont.
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan was 1:47 4/5.
Pies Prospect was 2 1/4 lengths behind Master David in fourth, followed by Intimidator, Zakocity, Friends Lake, Sinister G, Consecrate and Wild Wadi.
Sinister G, a 30-1 shot who got a slow break from the extreme inside post for Paul Toscano, forced his way to the front and dueled with 70-1 Intimidator through moderate fractions of :23 1/5, :46 and 1:10. Purge, the 2-1 second choice, broke cleanly from the 10 post for Velazquez and settled in third early while racing well off the rail. On the turn he moved on the leaders, who began to fade, and the Kentucky-bred bay colt was soon under confident control of the outcome after completing a mile in 1:35.
"We thought we had a good chance today," Pletcher said. "Part of the key was that we weren't being chased by Smarty Jones. The outside post helped today, and he rated kindly. It worked out pretty smoothly. He's a very good colt.
Purge showed the ability to rate in his first two races, both sprints. He broke his maiden by four lengths in his debut at Saratoga in August. He returned Feb. 22 with a three-length allowance victory at Gulfstream Park.
Sent off as the 2-1 favorite against Smarty Jones in the Rebel at Oaklawn Park March 20, he set a legitimate pace before tiring in his first attempt at two turns, finishing second by 3 1/4 lengths. Catching a muddy track for the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) April 10, he faded again after leading through the first half-mile and finished fifth, beaten by 7 1/4 lengths by Smarty.
"I thought we were taking an easier route going to Arkansas," Pletcher said. "Unfortunately, we ran into the best three-year-old in the country and probably the best three-year-old we've seen in a long time."
The victory Saturday more than doubled his career bankroll to $237,400.
Glory Days Breeding bred Purge, who was produced by the Copelan mare Copelan's Bid Gal.
The winner paid $6.80, $4.60 and $2.70. Swingforthefences returned $7.10 and $3.30. Master David was $2.50 to show. The $2 exacta was worth $38.20.