05/10/2008 12:27PM

Peter Pannery


I'm going to let Casino Drive beat me in today's Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont. He's a pretty cool story, but could be a drastic underlay as the 2-1 morning-line favorite.

Casino Drive is the third consecutive foal produced by the Deputy Minister mare Better Than Honour to be pointed for the Belmont Stakes. The first was Jazil (by Seeking the Gold), who won the 2006 edition. The second was Rags to Riches (by A.P. Indy), who won it last year, the first filly to do so in 102 years. Now Casino Drive (by A.P. Indy's son Mineshaft) will make his American debut in the Peter Pan as a prep for the Belmont. where he will try to complete what might be the greatest pick-three by a broodmare in classic history.

It's a bold bid, and you have to like the moxie of Hidetoshi Yamamoto, the Japanese video-game magnate who bought the colt for $950,000 as a yearling in September of 2006, three months after Jazil's victory and three months before Rags to Riches made her racing debut. But 2-1 on a colt with one career start, albeit an 11 1/2-length romp in a $134,000 (!) maiden race at Kyoto Feb. 23? (A link to video of the race is here.) He missed a scheduled second start when quarantined during an influenza outbreak, arrived here April 30, and will be making his first start in 11 weeks.

“He should be better after this race,” the stable's racing manager told The New York Times. “He’s ready to run, but it’s been more than two months since he raced and he had a 13-hour flight from Tokyo and quarantine. He needs a race.”

The most obvious alternatives to the favorite are Tomcito, the 2007 Peruvian Triple Crown winner who was third in Big Brown's Florida Derby and 6th in the Blue Grass in his two American starts, or Golden Spikes, runner-up in Recapturetheglory's Illinois Derby. I'll instead lean on two slower-to-date but lightly-raced and improving colts, Ready's Echo (6-1 ML) and Cosmic (8-1 ML.) Ready's Echo is the colt who made up nearly 20 lengths in his 5 1/2-furlong debut running second to Z Humor at Saratoga and has two nice efforts since. Cosmic, a son of El Prado and Heavenly Prize, is a green and goofy colt who has won his last two starts, both at a mile and an eighth on the dirt, and has improved his Beyer figure in each of his six career starts.

The G2 Peter Pan is preceded by the G3 Bold Ruler, a race that completely baffles me. So maybe I'll try a 2x2 late-double criss-cross into the statebred maiden finale, using Ready's Echo and Cosmic with Writingonthewall and Letsgoyankees, second-time starters who look like stickouts now that the race has been moved from the grass to the main track.

Update 6:30 pm: Just got back from Belmont, where Casino Drive announced he will be a serious force in the June 7 Belmont Stakes with a smashing 5 3/4-length victory in the Peter Pan. Slammed from 2-1 to 6-5 in the final five minutes of betting, the strapping chestnut colt ran a powerful race. He broke slowly from the inside post, recovered quickly rushing up the rail, then settled nicely in fourth as his entrymate Spark Candle pushed Mint Lane through fractions of 23.08, 46.31 and 1:10.47. Desormeaux swung him out on the turn and Casino Drive quickly collared Mint Lane and Golden Spikes, pulling 2 1/2 lengths clear through a mile in 1:35.26, and widened his advantage with every stride through a final furlong in 12.61 for a final time of 1:47.87. Mint Lane held second narrowly over Ready's Echo, who lost contact with the field early and belatedly came from another zip code to be third.

There were two other one-turn routes on the card, both at a mile and a sixteenth. In the 5th race, a very impressive 3-year-old first-timer from Darley, a $1 million Unbridled's Song yearling named Unbridled's Heart, won his debut by 10 lengths over a solid field of maidens in 1:42.12. One race later, That'srightofficer won a statebred N1x in 1:44.14. I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more from not only Casino Drive but also Unbridled's Heart.

We've now got four pretty exciting undefeated 3-year-olds now who are a combined 10-for-10: Big Brown (4-for-4), Harlem Rocker (3-for-3), Casino Drive (2-for-2) and Unbridled's Heart (1-for-1).