Unified stretches out in Peter Pan Stakes
ELMONT, N.Y. – Though some may be using Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes as a stepping-stone to the Belmont Stakes, Unified is simply using it as the third race of his career.
An impressive winner of his first two starts, Unified will try to stretch his speed to 1 1/8 miles against seven rivals in the Peter Pan, one of four graded stakes on Saturday’s 11-race card.
Unified, a son of Candy Ride, won his debut going six furlongs at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 21. He had eight weeks before his next start, which was a threelength victory in the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes going seven furlongs at Aqueduct. Had trainer Jimmy Jerkens chosen to keep Unified sprinting, it likely would have meant waiting nine weeks until the Woody Stephens Stakes on the June 11 Belmont Stakes undercard.
“I didn’t want to wait that long,” Jerkens said. “If you have a horse on the top of his game, it seems kind of stupid to sit around that long. Even though it is a mile and an eighth, it’s around one turn. You don’t have to worry how he’s going to go into the first turn, if he’s going to be rank. Seems like you can be a little rank in these kinds of races and it’s not the end of the world. That’s why I found it appealing.”
Jerkens said that regardless of how Unified fares in the Peter Pan, running in the Belmont Stakes “might be stretching it.”
Unified, who will break from post 7 under Jose Ortiz, is the only graded stakes winner in the field. Decorated Soldier won the Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn on April 16, while Governor Malibu won the Gander Stakes for New Yorkbreds at Aqueduct in February.
Rounding out the Peter Pan field are Adventist, third in the Wood Memorial; maiden winners Wild About Deb, Supah Czech, and Lost Iron; and the maiden Singleton.
Trainer Chad Brown has one-third of the nine-horse field for Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park, as he entered Wake Forest, Money Multiplier, and Morandi in the 1 3/8-mile race on turf.
Wake Forest might be favored. He was beaten just a head by Kaigun in the Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park, his first start since last August’s Arlington Million. Wake Forest will break from post 9 under John Velazquez.
Money Multiplier finished second in a couple of graded stakes going 1 1/8 miles last summer. He made a successful 4-year-old debut with an allowance win at Aqueduct on April 15. Money Multiplier drew post 2 and will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.
Morandi, who did not have much luck in his first two starts in the U.S., will break from the rail under Javier Castellano.
Trainers Graham Motion and Bill Mott have each entered two in the field. Motion goes with Up With the Birds, who won the Grade 1 Jamaica (now the Belmont Derby) in 2013, and Can’thelpbelieving. Mott sends out Closing Bell and Go Around.
Kaigun, who beat Wake Forest in the Pan American before running second in the Elkhorn, and Biz the Nurse complete the field.
Tom Albertrani trains Biz the Nurse. He also trains Twilight Eclipse, who won this race last year. Albertrani said he wanted to give Twilight Eclipse more time from his race in the Elkhorn on April 23 and target the Belmont Invitational, a two-mile turf race on June 10.
Cavorting, a Grade 1-winning sprinter last year at age 3, will try to stretch out to a mile in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian Stakes at Belmont. In races at seven furlongs or shorter, Cavorting is 5-1-1 from eight starts.
Santa Anita: Laz Barrera
ARCADIA, Calif. – The Santa Anita Derby on April 9 ended for Iron Rob before it truly began. A longshot, Iron Rob struggled with the footing on a sealed and sloppy track and finished last of eight.
“He slipped coming out of the gate,” trainer George Papaprodromou said. “He didn’t get a hold of the track.”
On Saturday, Papaprodromou and owner Rustin Kretz will send out Iron Rob in the $100,000 Lazaro Barrera Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs. This time, the weather is not expected to be a factor, the competition not as difficult, and Iron Rob will be sprinting, which is his strength.
Earlier this year, Iron Rob won consecutive sprints for 3-year-olds here on the main track – the Baffle Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs on Feb. 21 and the San Pedro Stakes at six furlongs on March 20. The start in the Santa Anita Derby was a calculated gamble to test Iron Rob against some of the best 3-yearolds in California. Exaggerator won the Santa Anita Derby and was second to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby last Saturday.
The Grade 3 Barrera will be a test in itself for Iron Rob, a colt by Twirling Candy who has won 3 of 11 starts and earned $157,665. The field is expected to include Denman’s Call, who was third in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes in February behind Nyquist and Exaggerator, and Smokey Image, the Californiabred champion 2-year-old male of 2015.
Iron Rob, who will be ridden by Stewart Elliott, is expected to race near the front. Papaprodromou said a win could lead to another start in a two-turn race, perhaps in the $100,000 Affirmed Stakes at 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds on July 2.
“Down the road, I’d like to give him another shot going long,” Papaprodromou said.