Mark Valeski Rolls Home in Peter Pan
By Dick Downey
Mark Valeski, favored at 6-5 odds, made a well-timed run to win the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park.
Ridden by Rosie Napravnik (Photo by NYRA/Adam Coglianese), Mark Valeski bided his time during the long run down the backstretch in the 1 1/8 mile race. Meanwhile, Right to Vote and Alex Solis, sent off at 47-1 odds, were busy cutting out rapid fractions of :22.71, :45.35 and 1:09.52.
Tracking the leader into the sole turn of the race were The Lumber Guy, La Bernerdin, Hakama and Mark Valeski. But coming round the bend, the three behind Right to Vote were beginning to tire, and Mark Valeski was making his move going wide.
Mark Valeski took sway over Right to Vote just inside the eighth-mile pole and prevailed by 1 1/4 length. Making a strong late run to take third was Street Life. He gobbled up ground in deep stretch and was beaten 1 3/4 length for all of it.
Following Street Life in the order of finish were Good Morning Diva, Big Screen, The Lumber Guy, Hakama, Summer Front, Master Rick and La Bernardin. Teeth of the Dog and Zetterholm were scratched.
Mark Valeski was timed in 1:48.31. He returned $4.70, $3.30 and $2.80.
Trained by Larry Jones, Mark Valeski bypassed the Kentucky Derby last Saturday after turning in a breeze that, although it was a bullet, Jones said lacked a wow factor. That was followed up by a stronger training move, another bullet at Belmont.
Jones could enter Mark Valeski in the Belmont Stakes four weeks hence -- but he's said the main target for the colt is the summer classics. Right to Vote wasn't nominated to the Triple Crown. Street Life was nominated.
Mark Valeski is a son of Proud Citizen bred and owned by Brereton Jones. He's out of the Fortunate Prospect mare Pocho's Dream Girl.
The win was the third in six starts for Mark Valeski, runner-up in both the Grade II Risen Star Stakes and Grade II Louisiana Derby.
Larry Jones, winning trainer: “I thought it was really good. We were a little wide, and Rosie said she didn’t want to be out there, but she just didn’t want to take a shot of him getting down in there and getting hung up behind horses. She felt like she was on enough horse where she could give up some ground and just keep him clear. We just needed a real good race in him to see where we sat, and he answered the questions like we thought he should, and like we thought he could.
"We’re very happy with this performance today, they were rolling up front and he was staying close to them, so all was well. I kept thinking to myself ‘Well, if we win this thing by a bunch I’m going to wonder if I should have been at the Derby,’ but we made the right decision. (Brereton Jones) did, to be honest with you, because he doesn’t have the Derby fever that we’ve got to be there, he said ‘Do what’s right for my horse.’
Belmont Stakes next? “We’re going to Churchill with him, and then we’ll see how he comes out and whether we try to come back or what our next plan is. There are plenty for options for him. We’re sure going to look because it sure looked like he handled this track well, and slowing the fractions down a little bit, he’s going to carry that speed a lot farther. He’ll probably be a forward factor in the Belmont, especially if Bodemeister and them rip each other apart in the Preakness. We’ll see how the Preakness turns out and who’s left available. We’re sure not going to rule it out – we know where Belmont is.”
Rosie Napravnik, winning jockey: “The horse felt great and did everything right. I was a little worried about all the ground we were losing, but at the same time, with the fast pace, I didn’t want to tuck in and get stuck behind, because I knew I was on the best horse. When I pressed the button, even with all the ground we lost, he was much the best and ran great today. It should set him up very nicely for his next race.
“I asked him out of the gate pretty good, because I know sometimes in these races with a lot of speed, everybody is waiting to see who goes, so that way you can get yourself a better position if you ride a little more aggressively. I still didn’t get to where I wanted to be, but there was plenty of speed in there, and he was the best horse, and that’s what got us there.”
“He was right there when I needed him. He was waiting on me. He does whatever you want. He could have been on the lead if he wanted to, and would have been last if I’d asked him. That’s the really nice part about riding versatile horses in these big races, it gives you a lot more options and opportunities to get a good trip.
“He hasn’t done much wrong yet, and doesn’t seem to ever get tired. We’ll have to see about the mile and half. I’m sure it will be a question for him as for many others in that race, if he decides to take him to the Belmont Stakes.”
Eoin Harty, trainer of runner-up Right To Vote: “He ran huge. Oh, Lord. Tom Durkin, he was putting the fear of God in me there, ‘Lightning fractions! He goes a half in 45!’ I’m thinking ‘When is he going to die?’ He hung in there. I don’t know what our next stop is going to be, maybe the Dwyer.”