05/10/2012 3:04PM

Belmont Park: Mark Valeski looks sharp for Peter Pan Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Mark Valeski is the likely favorite for Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Larry Jones is not looking back. If he had any regrets about keeping Mark Valeski out of last week’s Kentucky Derby, he certainly didn’t reveal it Thursday morning.

Instead, Jones seemed quite content with his decision as he held the shank on Mark Valeski while the stout 3-year-old munched away on some grass outside barn 26 at Belmont Park, where Saturday Mark Valeski will run in the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes.

“He just wasn’t showing me that spark last weekend, then got up here and I think he had one of the fastest works from what I’ve seen all meet,” said Jones, referring to a Monday work in 59.66 seconds. “He took to it like a duck to water and showed he was getting there, and hopefully, we got him where we want.”

If Mark Valeski is where Jones wants him, he will be the horse to beat in Saturday’s Peter Pan, a one-turn, 1 1/8-mile race that is the local prep for the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 9.

Mark Valeski, who will break from post 5 under Rosie Naprvanik, was one of 12 horses entered for the Peter Pan, though the connections of Teeth of the Dog and Zetterholm would like to scratch to run in the Preakness.

Mark Valeski, a son of Proud Citizen owned and bred by Brereton Jones, is coming off a second-place finish in the Louisiana Derby on April 1. He not only lost a shoe in the race, but came out of the race with a splint bone issue that needed to be addressed.

“At this point in the game, I think he’s coming into this race now better than he’s come into any race I’ve had him so far, except maybe the Louisiana Derby,” Jones said. “If we can keep all our pieces tied together, hopefully we’re going to get to see what he can and can’t do.”

Mark Valeski likes to come from midpack, and there would appear to be ample speed in this field to allow him to settle and make a run.

Right to Vote, who has been up on the pace in all four of his starts, and The Lumber Guy, the front-running winner of the Grade 2 Jerome last month at Aqueduct, are the primary speed. Le Bernardin and Master Rick also like to race in a forward position.

The Lumber Guy is making his third start in five weeks. He was fifth in the Wood Memorial before coming back in two weeks to win the Jerome, a one-turn-mile race by 2 3/4 lengths.

“Three weeks ago, he ran back on two weeks’ rest and he emptied out in the race,” trainer Mike Hushion said. “But he’s acting bright and happy, and his work the other day was fine.”

Hushion is hoping that going 1 1/8 miles, The Lumber Guy won’t have to go too fast early under Mike Luzzi.

“At a mile and an eighth, I think everybody’s going to be a little cautious early,” Hushion said. “Mike will be nursing The Lumber Guy as best he can, and wherever that takes us, it takes us.”

Among the longshot possibilities are Big Screen, Master Rick, and Summer Front.

If Teeth of the Dog scratches, Big Screen would be the only horse in the field with a win at the 1 1/8-mile distance. He is coming off a neck loss to Good Morning Diva – who also is in this field – in the off-the-turf Calder Derby.

“He’s training good, he’s feeling good, it looks like he’s been on the muscle since he’s been here, which is a good sign,” said trainer Tom Albertrani, who took over the training of Big Screen from recently retired Frank Alexander. “Going into the race, I see a lot of positive about him.”

Summer Front, trained by Christophe Clement, makes his dirt debut after going 3 for 3 on turf as a 2-year-old and finishing second in the Grade 2 Lexington over Keeneland’s Polytrack in his 3-year-old debut.

Master Rick is 2 for 2 since being transferred to trainer Steve Asmussen, including a victory in the Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn on April 14. Corey Nakatani rides from post 9.

Street Life, who gets blinkers for the first time, Le Bernardin, and Hakama round out the field.

Peter Pan S. (G2), Post Time: 5:04 ET Saturday

Purse: $200,000; 1 1/8 miles





ML Odds


Right to Vote

E. Harty

A. Solis



The Lumber Guy

M. Hushion

M. Luzzi




R. Dutrow,Jr.

J. Alvarado



Le Bernadin

K. McLaughlin

E. Castro



Mark Valeski

L. Jones

R. Napravnik



Good Morning Diva

T. Hills

J. Leparoux




M. Trombetta

J. Velazquez



Big Screen

T. Albertrani

R. Maragh



Master Rick

S. Asmussen

C. Nakatani



Teeth of the Dog

M. Matz

J. Bravo



Summer Front

C. Clement

R. Dominguez



Street Life

C. Brown

J. Lezcano