Will the Peter Pan Stakes produce a challenger to impressive Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner Smarty Jones?

Will the Peter Pan Stakes produce a challenger to impressive Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner Smarty Jones?

Mike Corrado

Peter Pan Could Produce Rivals for Smarty

(from Belmont Park release)
Saturday's $200,000 Peter Pan (gr. II) at Belmont Park brings together a group of 3-year-olds taking their last shot to show they could possibly spoil Smarty Jones' quest to become racing's 12th Triple Crown champion.

Smarty Jones arrived at his Philadelphia Park base early Sunday afternoon and is scheduled to come to Belmont Park in the middle of next week. A victory in the $1 million Belmont June 5 would not only ensure the stalwart Pennsylvania bred's place in history, but it would also make his connections a bundle of money. A win would also bring a $5 million bonus for winning the Triple Crown.

Of the 10 horses likely to run in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan, three of those seem to have a better chance of making the Belmont than some of the others. New York-bred Friends Lake, winner of the Florida Derby (gr. I), seems probable to run in the Belmont barring a terrible performance in the Peter Pan. The A.P. Indy colt finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contested over a sloppy

"I think I need to get a race into him," said trainer John Kimmel, who planned on working Friends Lake Monday morning. "He got absolutely nothing out of the Kentucky Derby and it's just way too much to ask him to run a mile and a half off a no-performance since the Florida Derby."

While Kimmel respects Smarty Jones, he wasn't exactly scared of going up against the Derby and Preakness winner.

"Smarty Jones was the only one who showed up in the Preakness," Kimmel said. "Somebody has to run against him. I think we need to clear the Peter Pan hurdle and show that we'll improve going a mile and a half."

Bobby Frankel, trainer of Wood Memorial runner-up Master David, said he would evaluate his charge's status in the Belmont following the Peter Pan. The Hall of Famer spoke highly of Smarty Jones.

"He looked like a superstar," Frankel said. "He looks like a cinch in the Belmont unless something goes wrong. He likes off tracks, he likes fast tracks, he's always in the race and doesn't need anyone to set the pace for him. He's a complete orse."

Master David did not run in the Preakness after finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby, beaten 18 ½ lengths by Smarty Jones.

"We'll see what happens in the Peter Pan, but I'm not looking forward to running against Smarty Jones," Frankel said.

Trainer Richard Violette Jr. nominated two horses to the Peter Pan, but he will only run Swingforthefences. Read the Footnotes will be sidelined for a few months with a chip in his right knee.

Violette said Swingforthefences, fourth in the Wood Memorial (gr. I), needs to be impressive in the Peter Pan in order to enter the Boston Harbor colt in the Belmont.

"He needs to run off the screen or show he really loves the Belmont surface," Violette said. "I won't shut the door on the Belmont, but Smarty Jones has been awfully impressive."

Others expected for the Peter Pan are Purge, Sinister G, Tiger Hunt, Wild Wadi, Zakocity, and the Bob Baffert-trained Consecrate.

Nick Zito is likely to run recent allowance winner Pies Prospect in the Peter Pan. Zito has a number of horses he could call on for the Belmont in addition to Pies Prospect. Sir Barton winner Royal Assault, Champagne (gr. I) winner Birdstone and The Cliff's Edge, who is recovering from a bruised foot, are possibilities.

Rock Hard Ten and Eddington, the second and third-place finishers behind 11 1/2 -length Preakness winner Smarty Jones, are likely for the 136th Belmont. Wood Memorial winner Tapit and Santa Anita Derby winner Castledale, ninth and 15th respectively in the Kentucky Derby, could also take a shot.

Dermot Weld-trained Relaxed Gesture is a Belmont possibility. The colt finished eighth in his only dirt start, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Weld won the 1990 Belmont with Go and Go.

A pair of allowances horses who were defeated at Belmont Friday – Shaniko and Mustanfar – are slight possibilities to return in the last leg.