The Grade 3, $350,000 Peter Pan Stakes is historically a prep race for some horses hoping to vault into the Belmont Stakes next month and this year’s 64th edition features eight horses potentially with those aspirations. Leading the field in terms of the level of recent competition is Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby third-place finisher Core Beliefs. His third-place effort behind eventual Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner Justify may be just what bettors perceive as the best last race in the field. However, Diamond King is intriguing as he just won the Federico Tesio Stakes at the distance of the Peter Pan, although it must be noted his connections are also considering a start in the Preakness Stakes one week from now. Blended Citizen, Zing Zang, and Gotta Go finished fifth, ninth and 11th, respectively, in the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes in April and hope to improve, particularly Blended Citizen, who won the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks prior to that. Just Whistle runs in a stakes race for the first time and was very impressive winning his most recent race. High North was impressive in a stakes victory at Oaklawn Park in April. Transistor rounds out the field.
Just Whistle earned the best last-race Equibase Speed Figure in the field, 106, when winning last month at Keeneland. That was his second start of the year and a big improvement off his runner-up effort one month prior, which followed six months away from the races. As a son of Pioneerof the Nile (sire of American Pharoah, among others), there is little doubt Just Whistle can successfully negotiate the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Peter Pan. As a horse on a pattern for significant improvement in his third start off a layoff, he appears to be the one to beat in this race.
High North earned his first win last fall in his third career start, then tried stakes company and was not disgraced when fourth of 14 in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Given time off over the winter to mature, High North returned in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford and finished fifth of nine without threatening. He then ran poorly again when seventh in the Rebel Stakes one month later. Four weeks later, High North added blinkers for the Northern Spur Stakes and returned to top form, earning a 105 Equibase Speed Figure when drawing off by 2 1/2 lengths in a field of eight. Trainer Brad Cox is still on a high from winning the Longines Kentucky Oaks with Monomoy Girl last weekend and his 30-percent success rate with back-to-back winners in dirt routes over the past two years is another reason supporting High North potentially winning his second stakes race in a row.
Blended Citizen needs a hot pace in front of him to succeed, as occurred in March when rallying to win the Jeff Ruby Steaks by a neck with a 109 figure. Following that effort, Blended Citizen tried to earn enough points for a Kentucky Derby start by running in the Blue Grass Stakes but could only manage a fifth-place finish. In the Peter Pan, with the prospect for a hotly contested pace unlikely, Blended Citizen may be hard-pressed to pass the field to win, but it is not an impossible task and so he will round out the three horses with the best chance to win this year’s Peter Pan Stakes.
The rest of the Peter Pan field (with best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Core Beliefs (94), Diamond King (89), Gotta Go (78), Transistor (93), and Zing Zang (90).