Friday, May 13, 2011

Sophomore Spotlight: Peter Pan Preview

--Brian DiDonato

Saturday's Peter Pan at Belmont drew an interesting field of 11, including several out-of-towners. Only five members of the field are Triple Crown nominated, so the race won't necessarily have Belmont S. implications, but two of the more interesting horses in the race seem to be using this as a stepping stone into the final leg of the Triple Crown. At this point, I think Adios Charlie is the most talented runner in the field. I've discussed his merits on this blog several times, so I won't go over them again, but I think he'd win if the pace were neutral. It probably won't be, however, and that's why he's slightly vulnerable. Uncle Brent, Prime Cut, Bold Deed, and Joe Vann all like to lay close, and might compromise the morning line favorite's chances. I will still use him because he's not a need-the-lead type and might be able to rate from farther off the pace, but  my win money will go on another runner and I'll use three horses in the Pick 4.

When Alternation secured his third consecutive route win two back at Oaklawn in February, I opted to go out on a limb and make him a "TDN Rising Star." He hadn't ever run particularly fast from a speed figure standpoint, but he seemed like one who would improve with added ground and had a late kick that would be dangerous in the Triple Crown races and/or other big sophomore events if he made it that far. By leading sire Distorted Humor, the Pin Oak homebred is out of the MSW and MGSP Seattle Slew mare Alternate, who won at up to 1 3/8 miles and earned $550,000. Alternate is a half to Canadian champion Peaks and Valleys, a MGISW at nine furlongs who was GSP at 1 1/4 miles. Alternation ran fifth in the Arkansas Derby last time, and I didn't look closely at the performance until now--I sort of dismissed it as a clunk-up and proof that he might not be as good as I thought he was. But upon further examination, he ran sneakily well. While the pace was on the faster side (not by much), Alternation was so far back early--up to 18 lengths--that he had no chance to win. His rider, Luis Quinonez, must have tried to push his mount up closer after the opening quarter, as Alternation ran the fastest second quarter in the race. He also ran the second-fastest final eighth (:12.57) behind only Nehro, and was one of only three (winner Archarcharch was the third) to break the 13 second mark. While I do expect Alternation to get plenty of pace to close into, I don't think he'll be as far back early in the Peter Pan. The 24 early Moss Pace Figure he received for the Arkansas Derby was off-the-charts slow, and just half of what he received in his previous race, so he can definitely lay closer. He also shows two quick works over the Polytrack at Arlington in the interim, and will get leading rider Ramon Dominguez, who should be able to figure out where to lay early.

The third horse I'll use in the Peter Pan is Monzon. If we toss all his turf races and his fifth in the Sam F Davis--which came on a surface that many horses dislike--he's left with a 12 1/2-length maiden breaker at a mile at Laurel (with a incredibly slow 48 Beyer), and a quick-closing score in the Count Fleet over the Aqueduct inner with a 90 Beyer. That Count Fleet performance alerted many to Monzon's promise, and while he fell off the radar a bit after that, I expect him to serve up a reminder Saturday at a big price. A quick rundown of who Monzon beat in the Count Fleet might be all one needs to jump back on the bandwagon. Runner-up J J's Lucky Train returned to take the Miracle Wood S. at Laurel with a 97 Beyer, then the GIII Bay Shore at Aqueduct with a 92 Beyer before finishing third when rank in the GIII Derby Trial. Third-place finisher Pants On Fire finished second, beaten a head, in the GIII LeComte and took the GII Louisiana Derby (albeit with an easy trip) two starts later over Nehro with a 94 Beyer. Fourth finisher Arthur's Tale would eventually come a neck short of winning the GI Wood Memorial, while second-to-last and last-place finishers Tap Star and Rush Now won next out on class drops.

If Alternation is 5-1 or higher, I'll bet him to win. If not, I'll bet Monzon at 9-1 or higher. I'll box those two, and also use them with Adios Charlie. I will use all three in Pick 3 or 4 bets.

Also, look out for Red Ace in Churchill Downs race 9 and Speed Ring in Woodbine race 5 on Sunday. The former looks on paper like he had no excuse when setting an easy pace before getting beat by a rival in a Keeneland allowance Apr. 16, but the track was absolutely killing speed that day. His maiden-breaker two back was extremely impressive, and I expect him to show more this time. Speed Ring is a son of A.P. Indy out of the Canadian champion 3-year-old filly Catch the Ring (Seeking The Gold), making him a full-brother to Canadian champion 2-year-old filly Catch the Thrill. He received some glowing reports from the Keeneland clockers prior to his debut, which came the day after Red Ace’s race, and he set the pace before also falling victim to the track, finishing fourth. 

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