Eleven 3-year-olds, some with their eye on the June 8 Belmont Stakes and others looking beyond, will assemble at Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon for the 59th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan.
Likely to attract considerable support is Grade 3 Bay Shore winner Declan’s Warrior, who will be stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time. Trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, the Majestic Warrior colt is 3-1-0 from four starts, including a last-to-first maiden victory at Belmont last October.
“Obviously, the good thing is, we’ve always thought he was a terrific horse,” said Zito of Declan’s Warrior, who carries the colors of Lucky Shamrock Stable. “He’s getting better, and this is a good time to be getting better. It’s a good time to stretch him out.”
Since his narrow victory in the Bay Shore, in which he swept five-wide to rally from seventh, Declan’s Warrior has had two works over the training track at Saratoga Race Course, most recently breezing a half-mile in 48.16 on May 4.
“He’s doing very well,” said Zito, who owns two Belmont Stakes victories but has never won the Peter Pan. “We’re not really looking at this as a prep for the Belmont, but as a stakes race in its own right. He’s a good horse, and down the road he’s got a great future and a great career.”
Jose Lezcano has the return call aboard Declan’s Warrior, who drew post position 8 as the 4-1 second choice on the morning line.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will be represented by newcomer Battier, recent winner of the Fit to Fight overnight stakes on April 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack, and WinStar Farm’s Abraham, the 7-2 morning-line favorite who most recently was fourth in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby.
Second to Mr Palmer in the Private Terms on March 9 at Laurel Park, Battier was purchased by Eclipse Thoroughbreds and sent to Pletcher shortly after his 1 ½-length victory in the one-mile Fit to Fight.
“I haven’t really looked at this as a Belmont prep, but as a nice race on its own,” said Pletcher, who won the Peter Pan in 2004 with Purge and in 2006 with Sunriver. “Abraham ran a very good race in the Illinois Derby; he had a pretty difficult trip through no one’s fault. He’s an improving horse. Battier, whom we’ve had for a couple of weeks, is coming off a good race. He breezed well [5 furlongs in 1:01.19 on May 5] and we’ll see how he fits in.”
John Velazquez will ride Abraham as he leaves from post position 5, while Joel Rosario will be in the irons for Battier, who drew post position 3 at 8-1 on the morning line.
Making his first start on conventional dirt is Team Valor International’s Infinite Magic, who began his career in Europe and who on April 14 was a nose winner of a turf allowance at Keeneland Race Course. The More Than Ready colt was 2-2-0 from five starts on synthetic surfaces in England, including the 1 ¼-mile Blue Square Bet Handicap in February at Lingfield.
“It’d be easy to keep him on the grass – there’s a grass overnight stakes [on the day of the Peter Pan] – but when people invest money and take shots with 3-year-olds they’re hoping they can do something they haven’t done yet,” said trainer Bobby Ribaudo of Infinite Magic, who has breezed twice on Belmont’s main track, most recently traveling five furlongs in 1:01.15 on Sunday. “It’d be nice to see if he can handle the dirt, and then there’d be a lot of options for him. You don’t want to compare him to Animal Kingdom, but [Barry Irwin of Team Valor] did the same thing with Animal Kingdom, and everyone thought he was nuts. He ran on the synthetic, and the next thing you know he’s in the  Derby on the dirt and he wins.”
Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado will be aboard Infinite Magic, who will run on Lasix for the first time, when he leaves from post position 11. He was listed at 12-1 on the morning line.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who saddled Charitable Man to victory in the 2009 Peter Pan, will send out Darley Stable’s Incognito, who is using his stakes debut as a possible audition for the Belmont. The A.P. Indy colt broke his maiden on March 16 on Aqueduct’s inner track and next defeated older horses on April 13 in an optional claimer, both at a mile.
“We know Incognito wants [1 ½ miles],” said McLaughlin of the colt, who will run without Lasix. “It’s a great tune up for an important race, and we think Incognito could go on to the Belmont if he runs well.”
Mike Luzzi will ride the 5-1 third choice on the morning line from post position 10.
Rounding out the field are Freedom Child, who was declared a non-starter after being compromised at the break in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial; My Name Is Michael, seventh in the Grade 1 Blue Grass last time out; Fear the Kitten, who was entered in but failed to make the field for the Kentucky Derby; Narvaez, seventh in the Illinois Derby, the Chad Brown-trained Saint Vigeur, winner of both his starts in 2013, and Go Get the Basil, eighth in the Wood.
The field for the Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan: