Updated on 05/11/2012 1:54PM

Weekend Warrior for May 12: Shy away from favorite in Peter Pan


There is a predictable lull in stakes activity since this is the weekend between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. There are only two graded stakes on the national schedule, both on Saturday, and despite being bookended by the first two legs of the Triple Crown, both graded stakes are for 3-year-olds. The big race of the day is the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park, a nine-furlong event that can be used as a springboard to the last leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes on June 9. The other graded stakes Saturday is the Grade 3, $100,000 Lazaro Barrera Memorial at Betfair Hollywood Park, which went with a field of only four.

Peter Pan Stakes [Belmont PPs + Video]

Mark Valeski, who passed on a start in the Kentucky Derby for this race, will be the favorite, and would be a handful if he is able to duplicate his nose loss to El Padrino in the Risen Star Stakes two starts back. And a sharp, bullet work over the Belmont main track last Monday suggests that Mark Valeski might be poised to do just that.

On the other hand, the Risen Star was at 1 1/16 miles, and Mark Valeski didn’t run as well last time out at this 1 1/8-mile distance in the Louisiana Derby. Yes, Mark Valeski did lose a shoe early in the Louisiana Derby, which couldn’t have helped his cause. But that race was run in slow motion, and Mark Valeski still couldn’t catch a 109-1 shot in Hero of Order, who came back to be a distant 13th in the Blue Grass. Mark Valeski might win, but the combination of the question about his form at the distance and his low odds means he’s not my kind of play.

I liked Teeth of the Dog, but he's going to run in the Preakness instead. Now that Teeth of the Dog is going to scratch, then The Lumber Guy becomes my preference. It is true that The Lumber Guy backed up late when fifth in the Wood Memorial two starts back. It is also true that The Lumber Guy came home slow when he won the Jerome most recently. But this is still a very talented colt. The Wood was The Lumber Guy’s first attempt around two turns and he was rank in the early stages, but I believe he benefitted from that experience. And he came home slow in the Jerome because he went fast early, yet he still drew away late and looked reasonably strong through the wire.

In addition, the pace setup Saturday may not be as bad for The Lumber Guy as it might appear at first glance. Right to Vote, who will be breaking from the rail just inside of The Lumber Guy, certainly has the speed to compromise The Lumber Guy early. But in remarks to the New York Racing Association press office, the connections of Right to Vote acknowledged the other speed in the Peter Pan, and suggested their colt would have to rate. You can’t take every comment from every trainer at face value, but this one makes a lot of sense because Right to Vote would wreck any chance he has Saturday by dueling early. So maybe The Lumber Guy might get a break on the front end.

Decathlon Stakes [Monmouth PPs + Live Video]

There are two schools of thought when it comes to dealing with a horse like Soaring Stocks in here, who is coming off an inexplicably empty effort as the favorite in the Duncan F. Kenner last time out. One is to stay away from him like he’s radioactive. The other is to just ignore the bad outing, especially if the horse is running back fairly quickly, which is what Soaring Stocks is doing. For me, it depends on the odds, and I’m going to let Soaring Stocks beat me. He will be well bet despite his ugly Kenner running line because he won three straight before that at Gulfstream.

I’m going with Bank Merger even if he had an off year last year. Bank Merger will be making his first start in seven months, which in this case is a good thing as three of his four career wins came either off layoffs or fresh. Bank Merger has a purposeful workout line, is from an excellent layoff barn, and has back form that is plenty good enough.

In Summation Stakes

Having started in two Grade 1 stakes, a Grade 2, and a Grade 3 in his last four starts, and having swept the Florida Stallion Stakes series over the Calder main track last year, Fort Loudon has class lines that tower over this field at Calder. But Fort Loudon is also cutting back to six furlongs after five straight starts at a mile or longer, and he might quickly find himself here with having to make up a lot of ground.

Hello Prince is the play. Hello Prince’s three assignments this year – two seven furlong starts and one on turf – weren’t ideal fits. He is now back to six furlongs on dirt, at which he won big in a stakes over the track last fall, and he will be right with a pace that might not be all that fast early.