Game Unified Takes Peter Pan
By Dick Downey
Unified used a new running style in the early stages, took command on the turn and held off Governor Malibu to win the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park.
Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Unified broke sharply, but instead of going straight to the lead as he has in the past, he was content to sit off ultra-longshots Singleton and Supah Czech up the backstretch behind splits of 23.32 and 46.38.
Supah Czech started backing up going into the sole turn of the race while Unified slipped up near Singleton. He easily passed the pacesetter mid-turn with six furlongs in the book in 1:10.25.
Leaving the top of the stretch, Unified put some space between himself and the rest of the eight-horse field. Singleton remained first in pursuit, with Adventist and Decorated Soldier next.
In the late going, Governor Malibu and Joel Rosario, who were in sixth place with three furlongs left in the race, made a late run up the rail and seriously challenged Unified nearing the wire. The 1-2 favorite gamely held on to win by three-quarters of a length. Meanwhile, Wild About Deb overtook Adventist, those two running third and fourth, beaten 3 1/4 and four lengths respectively. They were followed across the finish line by Decorated Soldier, Singleton, Lost Iron and Supah Czech.
The 1 1/8-mile was timed in 1:47.14.
With the victory, the Jimmy Jerkens trainee ran his record to three-for-three. He annihilated his competition going six furlongs at Gulfstream Parlk on Feb. 21, then ran in the seven-furlong Bay Shore Stakes on a sloppy Aqueduct track on April 9.
Unified rated behind horses in the Peter Pan. The question now is whether Jerkens will test the unbeaten colt in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes on June 11.
Owned by Centennial Farms, Unified was bred in Kentucky by Blue Devil Racing Stable, LLC. He's by Candy Ride (ARG) out of Union City, by Dixie Union.
Jimmy Jerkens: "I thought it was great. I thought he rated as good as you could expect for only have two races. I was happy to see that. Jose did a good job of keeping his hands down and keeping him out off the fence. We wanted to give him a little test. We didn't have to completely turn him around, it was one turn. He's got quality. We trained him hard for this race, and he took it like a man. He didn't miss an oat. He actually looks like he's carrying more flesh than he did when he ran the last time. Only the good ones do that.
What about the Belmont? "I don't know. There would have to be a lot of horses going by the wayside for that to happen. But you'd be an idiot nowadays to rule anything out, because things change overnight. It's improbable, but not impossible."
Jose Ortiz: "I thought I had it, but the last couple jumps, he felt the other horse and he got pretty good, very good. It wasn't my Plan A, but it was my Plan B (to sit off the lead). I saw the 2 horse sent, so I got a good position and took off him because I didn't want to get into trouble with that horse. The first quarter mile, he relaxed nicely and then the 1 horse came out got between us, he got a little bit edgy on me. By the half-mile pole, I put the 1 horse away and he then he settled back down and when I asked him to go, he was there."
Donald Little, Jr. managing partner of Centennial Farms: "After the Bay Shore, we weren't really sure where we were going and Dr. Carr and Jimmy talked about it and felt that if we were going to try it, now was the time to do it. It's another step accomplished. Jose said he didn't want the horse in front of him to get away, so he said he may have used him a little bit too soon, but the way he got away from them at the stretch, you could see he was getting a little tired at the end, so Jimmy and Steve will talk about it. Everything is very open. But he's a talented horse, he always tries. I think he's got the competitive spriit you want to see."
Christophe Clement, trainer of Governor Malibu: "I thought he ran well, second best. I've got to see how he comes out of this race and think about (the Belmont Stakes) before I make any plans. Everything is wide open but I'm very happy. I would have loved to win the race but that's just how it goes. He's a stayer for sure. He's always showed us that he was going to stay. The two factors we know is that he has some ability and he wants to go long. Now people might stop saying that he's a New York-bred and instead say that he's a nice New York-bred.
"At the quarter-pole to the eighth-pole I thought we had a chance him, but the winner is a nice horse, congratulations to the connections."
Joel Rosario, aboard Governor Malibu: "It was a good race for him. He's done everything well. He ran a big race today. He's a nice horse. He always keeps coming. He's a galloper. For a second I thought he was going to get there, he kept coming, but I just had to steady just a little on the turn because the horse I front of me stopped, and if I didn't have to stop, probably he would have got there, but the winner was tough."