The local prep for the Belmont Stakes, the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan, may not have drawn as deep a field as we’ve seen assembled in some past years, but it does feature at least two very talented three-year-olds in the undefeated Unified and the Grade 1-placed Adventist. Throw in a couple of well-regarded recent maiden winners and an over-achieving New York-bred and you have yourselves a race.
#7 Unified, listed at 4/5 on the morning line, is likely to go off as the heavy favorite. Additionally, the Pace Projector is predicting that he will play out as the main speed of this race, placing him well out in front of the field in the early going. Can he maintain his unbeaten record while successfully negotiating two additional furlongs? That’s a tall order for any horse—and especially for one who’s being asked to take on a worthy opponent.
Let’s go through the field:
#1, Supah Czech (30/1): He just recently broke his maiden and did not do so in particularly fast time. He appears to be overmatched.
#2, Singleton (20/1): The only maiden in this field has actually not run that slowly, earning triple-digit speed figures in each of his last three starts. He has tactical speed, which may place him closest to Unified in the early going. While a win surely seems out of reach, he may be worthy of superfecta consideration.
#3, Adventist (4/1):
Unified is the horse generating all of the buzz coming into this race, but Adventist is actually the horse to beat. Yes, there are some questions about the overall strength of the group that progressed through the New York preps for the Kentucky Derby—but this race is not the Kentucky Derby. It’s actually a pretty distinct drop in class from the field he faced in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Adventist has been plagued by greenness throughout his brief career, but he finally appeared to be putting it all together in the Gotham and Wood Memorial. Two back he was a little against the rail-biased track during the second half of the race and finished up decently. Then last time, he appeared to be spinning his wheels in the mud, but his stamina kicked in during the final furlong and he was moving fastest of all late to be third. This nine-furlong distance suits him perfectly, as should the one-turn distance at Belmont. Essentially, we believe he would be a massive overlay at this morning line price of 4/1.
#4, Decorated Soldier (6/1): He was game when winning the Northern Spur at Oaklawn last time, but that was not the strongest field, and the speed figure that he was assigned (100) is hardly faster than what the maiden Singleton has been running lately. Of course, he can improve once again, but how short of a price do you really want to take on this horse?
#5, Governor Malibu (10/1): This New York-bred son of Malibu Moon really took a step forward when stretching out to a mile last fall, earning a stakes placing as a maiden before reeling off three straight victories. The most recent win in the Federico Tesio was (legitimately) taken away from him via disqualification, but the fact remains that he ran very well that day to even photo with the loose-on-the-lead frontrunner Awesome Speed, given the pace advantage that rival enjoyed. He has earned speed figures of 105 and 107 in recent starts, which are some of the strongest in the race, and he has already handled the distance. Don’t be so fast to count him out, despite the rise in class.
#6, Wild About Deb (8/1): This guy is likely to attract some support, but we’re still on the fence. While it’s encouraging that he won going a mile and an eighth in just his second career start, we have to question what he was beating, going off at 3/5 odds in that off-the-turf race. The time was decent enough to earn him a 103 speed figure, but that was in the slop. There’s clearly talent here, but we ultimately felt more comfortable going in another direction.
#7, Unified (4/5):
Rather than focus on sprint races, his connections have decided to find out right now if this horse can handle route distances. It’s no small feat to stretch out from seven furlongs to a mile and an eighth for the first time in a Grade 2 stakes race, but if any horse can do it, perhaps it will be this gifted son of Candy Ride. He began his career in spectacular fashion, impressively taking his debut in a solid time before stepping up to easily best a field of sprinters in the Grade 3 Bay Shore, earning a lofty 121 speed figure. If he repeats a number like that, or even gets within 5 points of that form, he’s probably going to win this race. However, we have some doubts. That race was contested over a muddy track, which he clearly relished. Additionally, the horse that finished closest to him, King Kranz, earned a speed figure of 117 in finishing second, 15 points higher than what he had ever run before. King Kranz looked like a fairy consistent horse, and sure enough, he returned last week to regress 15 points and return to his typical 102 speed figure while winning a minor stakes. In terms of pedigree, it looks a little dicey for Unified. His dam was a pure sprinter and he appears to have inherited her quickness. For those looking for some hope, his dam is a full-sister to a filly that won the nine-furlong Demoiselle as a two-year-old. We have the utmost respect for his talent, but is it worth betting against him at anything around his odds-on morning line price? We believe so.
#8, Lost Iron (15/1): This grinder has the most experience at today’s distance, having run each of his three career races at nine furlongs. The addition of blinkers last time gave him the necessary focus to get the job done and break his maiden, but he faces a much tougher task here. He’s another one that we’d consider for the trifecta or superfecta.
We want to play Adventist (#3) to beat Unified (#7), especially if the former is going off at odds of 5/2 or higher. Governor Malibu (#5) is the only long shot that we believe could crash the party and potentially work his way into the exacta.
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 5,7
Trifecta: 3 with 5,7 with 2,4,5,6,7,8