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Saturday’s Grade 3, $350,000 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park will likely have major implications on the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. The historic race for 3-year-olds, which has served as a Belmont Stakes prep for years, is contested over 1 1/8 miles and has drawn a strong field of eight contenders. The 64th running of the event will go off as race 10 and is one of five stakes on a loaded day at Belmont Park racing.
Shortleaf Stable’s High North ships into the race for trainer Brad Cox, who will try to keep his good fortune going after winning last week’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. High North is coming off of a win last out in the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn Park, his first start wearing blinkers. Florent Geroux will have the mount once again when he breaks from post 6.
“He’s doing real well,” Cox said. “I think the blinkers helped, and I think because he was a little closer to the pace than his previous two races, I think it worked out well for him.”
The Peter Eurton-trained Core Beliefs will make his fifth career start after finishing third behind eventual Kentucky Derby winner Justify in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. He was beaten by over 9 lengths in that spot, but he earned a speed figure superior to the rivals that he faces here. The son of Quality Road has hit the board in all four of his lifetime starts and will break from the rail under Tyler Baze.
“He’s doing very well,” Eurton said. “We’re very proud of him, no complaints. We were very pleased with his last race, as it was his first race against winners, and now especially against the cailber of horse we now know we were running against in Justify. I mean, he was trying to win, it wasn’t like he was really far back, he was there at the 3/4 (mark) and was running throughout, but we were real pleased with him and how he ran.”
The field from the rail out includes Core Beliefs, Zing Zang, Just Whistle, Blended Citizen, Diamond King, High North, Gotta Go, and Transistor.
#6 High North – Let’s see if trainer Brad Cox can stay hot as he tries to take down big stakes races on back-to-back weekends. After struggling at Fair Grounds to start his year, Cox sent High North to Oaklawn Park, where he dominated in the Northern Spur. That win was the first time that Geroux rode him, and he’s followed the Midnight Lute colt to Belmont Park for this race. This horse could be starting to come on at the right time and has found a field where he should fit in very well.
#1 Core Beliefs – After Justify won the Kentucky Derby, it immediately enhanced Core Beliefs’ running lines, but don’t forget about Instilled Regard finishing fourth in that same race. Core Beliefs finished ahead of him in the Santa Anita Derby, which even further hints toward this horse being pretty solid. He has never finished out of the money in four lifetime races and seems to run his best races when going around two turns.
#3 Just Whistle – This horse will get bet hard in this spot, and perhaps rightfully so after finishing second to Hofburg two races back. Hofburg’s rapidly developing and could become a legitimate horse this season, and it’s very positive that Just Whistle wheeled back to win his last race against maiden special weight company at Keeneland. Both of those races match up with this group from a speed figure standpoint, which makes him more than logical here.
#4 Blended Citizen – This colt was just one scratch away from making the Kentucky Derby, but he had no such luck and was scratched from the Also Eligible list the day before. This spot should be a much better fit for him because it’s more closely associated with his level of class. There’s reason for optimism: his effort in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes wasn’t too bad, as he finished fifth to eventual Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic. He’ll likely drop to the back of the pack and be running late to pick up some minor awards.
#5 Diamond King – Last time out, he won the $100,000 Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park, which usually means that the horse goes straight to the Preakness Stakes. His trainer, John Servis, picked out this spot for him instead. His Tesio win was solid, but it wasn’t overly impressive, and the field’s speed figures didn’t come back that strong. He might be a bit better as a sprinter, but he’s good enough to make some noise in this field if he has everything go his way.
NONE – It would be surprise if a longshot won this race; the bigger prices don’t have much of a chance. Just Whistle would fit the “Party Crashser” role, but his probable odds make it to where he shouldn’t be labeled as such.
#2 Zing Zang – He would fit better in the Belmont because he can run all day long, but he really struggled in four Kentucky Derby prep races. Maybe he can improve, but his lack of early speed will always put him being the eight ball.
#7 Gotta Go – In three graded stakes races around two turns, he has been completely blown out, and it will be hard to turn the tables here. While this field is a bit easier than what he’s been facing, it’s still not an easy spot.
#8 Transistor – This colt runs for trainer Rudy Rodriguez for the first time after being previously conditioned by Stanley Gold. He broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park three races back, and he’s been competitive against state-bred company in his last two starts. This will be tougher competition, though, which makes him risky.
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