05/08/2008 12:00AM

Peter Pan has little say on Belmont


ELMONT, N.Y. - You're sure to read something somewhere about Saturday's Peter Pan being the key local prep for the Belmont Stakes, but like a lot of traditions in racing, that is mostly ancient history.

It's been nearly a decade since Lemon Drop Kid improved off a third in the Peter Pan to upset the 1999 Belmont at nearly 30-1, and you have to set the way-back machine to 1992 to get to A.P. Indy, the last horse to pull off a Peter Pan-Belmont double.

During the past 10 years, with the notable exceptions of Hero's Tribute and Purge, winners of the Peter Pan who managed to stay in training didn't fare well in subsequent starts:

* Though he ultimately ran second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Grand Slam (1998) never won again after the Peter Pan, and was beaten 17 lengths in the Belmont.

* Best of Luck (1999) won once from 12 additional starts, taking the Grade 3 Stuyvesant.

* Postponed went 1 for 14, the lone win in a turf allowance.

* Sunday Break (2002) went 0 for 6.

* Go Rockin' Robin (2003) went 0 for 11.

* Oratory (2005) never ran again.

* Sunriver (2006) lost his next four dirt starts by 54 lengths, before turning things around on turf as a 4-year-old.

* Sightseeing (2007) was a no-threat third in the opening-day Westchester, his sixth straight post-Peter Pan defeat. He is 2 for 15 overall.

The Beyer Speed Figure par for the Peter Pan is approximately 104, but results have varied widely in recent years, from the New York-bred Go Rockin' Robin's 93 to Oratory's 114 in his fifth and final start.

The Peter Pan's one interesting storyline centers on Casino Drive, whose grandsire is A.P. Indy, and whose dam, Better Than Honour, produced the last two Belmont Stakes winners.

Ordinarily it would be a no-brainer to toss a horse like Casino Drive, who has been idle for 11 weeks since winning his debut - in Japan. But Casino Drive, a half-brother to Jazil and a three-quarter brother to Rags to Riches, will make his U.S. debut in the softest Grade 2 spot imaginable. With the exception of Tomcito, who won two "Group 1" races in Peru as a juvenile, there are no stakes winners in the field, and Tomcito's figure of 92 for a sixth-place finish in the Lexington Stakes ranks as second-fastest in Saturday's Peter Pan behind Golden Spikes, the probable favorite off a placing in the Illinois Derby with a 95.

Beyond his pedigree and $950,000 purchase price, little is known about Casino Drive, except that he was bet to 1-5 for his unveiling in a 13-horse field at Kyoto and won in a romp over Copano Akochan and Xanadu. Those two were 109-1 and 8-1 while also debuting in the race, and they have yet to run back.

Casino Drive's entrymate is Spark Candle, a $1.5 million colt by A.P. Indy and out of the 1995 champion 3-year-old filly Serena's Song, who has produced two Grade 2 winners, Harlington and Grand Reward. Despite his regal pedigree, however, Spark Candle had what can charitably be described as a disappointing 2-year-old campaign in Japan.

Bold Ruler: No one has matched par

The Beyer par for the co-featured Bold Ruler is 111, and the last eight winners have recorded figures in the range of 107-113, including the recently un-retired Songster, who received a 110 in his first and only start of 2007.

None of the contenders on Saturday have matched the 111 par, though several have come close: Callmetony comes off a career-top 107 in his 51st start; Executive Fleet ran a 108 in the Carter five weeks ago; Forefathers ran a 106 chasing Daaher in last year's Jerome; and the Argentine import Lucky Island is 2 for 2 on Lasix in the U.S., beginning with a 104 for an allowance win at Gulfstream Park.

Harlem Rocker: What to do?

Looking ahead to the Preakness, the big question for exacta players is what to do with Harlem Rocker, the probable second choice behind Big Brown.

Harlem Rocker's Beyer profile in his first three starts, 81-97-106, is similar to Bernardini, who also won the Withers third time out, and had a line of 68-90-104 preceding his Preakness win, at nearly 13-1, with a 113. Of course, Bernardini was an exceptional colt who went on to post figures of 114-116-117-115, and it's impossible to say at this point whether Harlem Rocker is cut from the same cloth.

What we do know, however, is that Harlem Rocker is a Canadian-bred whose logical main goal is the Queen's Plate at Woodbine on June 22, so it's conceivable that in the Preakness he may be a race away from his absolute best. By running in the Preakness instead of the Plate Trial on June 1, Harlem Rocker gets five weeks between starts instead of three, which is spacing that Todd Pletcher generally prefers.

Add in a propensity for trouble at the break, and Harlem Rocker should be approached cautiously next Saturday.