Nine Furlongs, One Turn
Saturday's Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park will field eight, some looking for a stepping stone towards a start in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
Core Beliefs will make his fifth career start after finishing third behind Justify in the Santa Anita Derby. That effort marked the Quality Road colt's second time going two turns after he beat four others to break his maiden almost a month earlier. The Peter Eurton-trained Kentucky-bred had two third-place finishes in sprints running with blinkers.
"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 three-quarters, and was running throughout, but we were real pleased with him and how he ran."
Tyler Baze, who got the call aboard Core Beliefs for the first time in the Santa Anita Derby, will make the trip to New York and will try to work out a trip from the rail. Depending on what happens, Eurton said there is a plan for the next month.
"The ideal would be for him to win, come out of it liking the track and then go on to the Belmont, but we're going to take it one race at a time for now," he said.
Diamond King enters off of a three-quarter length victory in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park on April 21. He looks to add his third stakes win, which began with a score in the Heft on Dec. 30, also at Laurel Park.
Diamond King steadied for a third-place finish in the seven-furlong Swale at Gulfstream on Feb. 3, his sole start of the year other than the Tesio. He was guaranteed a spot in the Preakness by winning that race and could scratch from the Peter Pan. Overall, he's won four races from six starts for trainer John Servis. He gets Javier Castellano in the irons and drew post 5.
High North shipped up from Churchill Downs this week for a return to graded stakes competition after starting in three Grade II races for Brad Cox, the Kentucky Jockey Club, Risen Star and Rebel Stakes in which he ran fourth, fifth and seventh respectively.
High North was given a bit of class relief and outfitted with blinkers in the Northern Spur Stakes on April 14, his last start, and he responded with a 2 1/2-length victory. The lone runner with a race over Belmont's main track, High North was second to Avery Island in his second career start on Sept. 30. His stakes victory and equipment change could be the confidence boost the colt needed.
"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."
Florent Geroux, who debuted aboard High North in the Northern Spur, will make the trip to secure the mount and will break from post 6.
A debut in blinkers and a return to one turn add up to Gotta Go, who enters off an 11th place performance in the Blue Grass on April 7 at Keeneland. He turned in a sixth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth on March 3 at Gulfstream which followed a second place performance in the one-turn Swale.
"He's doing well and the plan at the moment is to go to New York," Wilkes said. "He looks like he's improving. If he wasn't, we wouldn't come. I'm going to put blinkers on him and go back to one turn. I'm happy with the way he's going. His last couple of races have been subpar and it might be due to the fact it was two turns; that's what I'm going to find out. I'll put some blinkers on him and make him a little more focused."
Gotta Go will be joined by regular rider Chris Landeros and will break from post 7.
Bringing the most race experience to the group will be Transistor, who will make his Belmont Park debut after 12 starts in Florida at Gulfstream and Gulfstream Park West for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
The colt was fourth in his debut then followed with two eighth-place finishes on grass before he started at Gulfstream Park West, where he returned to dirt and responded with a strong second, short by a head at the wire. The Florida-bred added another runner-up finish before trying two turns where he offered another second and a third place finish seemingly benefitting from the added distance. Transistor broke his maiden by a neck at 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream on Feb. 8, but was cut back to seven furlongs where he came with a late kick to finish in an allowance start and then closed for third in the Roar on April 21, and has been working well towards Saturday.
"So far, so good," Rodriguez said. "We're taking a big chance, but we want to take the chance against these. He looks like he wants to go that long, he likes distance, and he's a 3-year-old that's getting better and better, so let's hope he keeps going."
Transistor will be ridden by Luis Saez and will break from outside post 8.
Just Whistle will make just his fourth career start for trainer Michael Matz. Fifth in his debut at Delaware Park on Aug, 9, the Pioneerof the Nile colt floated a bit in the stretch at Gulfstream before finishing a half-length behind eventual Kentucky Derby starter Hofburg in his second start. The pace-stalking type returned break his maiden as the favorite at Keeneland, and now will face tougher with a chance to go forward.
"He's lightly raced, but he's a real nice horse," Matz said. "We'll see what happens. We're taking a really big step up to a bigger stage right here, and if it came up tough we'd probably skip and look elsewhere. We're looking to ship up Saturday morning and run."
Just Whistle will be ridden by Joel Rosario, aboard for the second straight time and will break from post 3.
Blended Citizen, the also-eligible entrant in the Kentucky Derby, will instead make his 10th career start in the Peter Pan after failing to draw in to the Classic last Saturday. He is the lone starter in the race to carry a graded stakes victory after he debuted with blinkers and prevailed by a neck in the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks on March 17 at Turfway Park. Next time out, he ran to a his fifth-place finish in the Blue Grass.
He ships in from Kentucky for trainer Doug O'Neill and will break from post 4 under jockey Kyle Frey.
Zing Zang will make his eighth career start for trainer Steve Asmussen following off the board finishes in four straight Derby prep races.
Zing Zang will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. and will run from post 2.
Carded as Race 10, the 64th running of the Peter Pan is one of five stakes, including four graded, on a stacked Man o' War Day card that is highlighted by the Grade 1, $700,000 Man o' War.
Edited NYRA release