Peter Pan Stakes pits seven versus rising star Unified

Eight three-year-olds have assembled for the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes, which takes place at Belmont Park this Saturday. It’s scheduled as Race 9 on the program, with an estimated post time of 5:45 p.m. EST. The Peter Pan is considered an important stepping-stone toward the Belmont Stakes (which will be run on June 11), as the last three winners of the race have come back to run in the third leg of the Triple Crown. That list includes 2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist.

#7 UNIFIED, from the same connections behind Wicked Strong (Centennial Farms and Jimmy Jerkens) is the strong 4-5 morning-line favorite, and his credentials are rock-solid. After wiring a maiden field at Gulfstream in February, UNIFIED came to Aqueduct in April and won the Grade III Bay Shore by three lengths. He’ll be making his first start at a route, but his pedigree gives no indication that the nine furlong distance will hinder him. With speed figures that leap off the page by comparison, UNIFIED is difficult to bet against come rain or shine, as he’s won over both a fast and muddy track. It remains to be seen if UNIFIED can handle the rigorous 1.5 mile Belmont Stakes with 10 added pounds next month, but he should be able to clear this hurdle on Saturday under Jose Ortiz.

#3 ADVENTIST has already proven his mettle at route distances, as he competed in New York’s Kentucky Derby preps; the Wood Memorial and Gotham Stakes. Those preps were proven to be weak when none of the horses from those races managed to hit the board in the Kentucky Derby, but ADVENTIST could still be a factor in here. ADVENTIST has established himself to be a difficult ride, but Irad Ortiz Jr. will be climbing aboard, and that’s a strong sign that this horse is live. ADVENTIST has also shown that he can handle a wet track, and that could come in handy this weekend.

#4 DECORATED SOLDIER will spot four pounds to his rivals but comes off a strong win in the Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn in which he was four-wide on both turns but still managed to win. It’s very possible this Todd Pletcher trainee rounds out the chalky trifecta.

#5 GOVERNOR MALIBU is a little short in the speed figure department but he’s hit the board is all six of his starts, three of which came at Belmont. GOVERNOR MALIBU won Maryland’s traditional Preakness prep, the Federico Tesio Stakes, last time out. He also reunites with Joel Rosario, who piloted him to his maiden victory last November.

#6 WILD ABOUT DEB made his first start of the year a winning one as he routed a group in the slop at Santa Anita last month. Phil D’Amato, who is fresh off two runner-up finishes in stakes at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, saddles this fringe contender, and top mid-Atlantic jockey Trevor McCarthy will call the shots.

The play: $4 trifecta 7/3/4,5,6, $2 trifecta 7/3/4, $2 trifecta 7/4,5,6/3 ($20)

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