Belmont Park - Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photography

Belmont Park – Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photography

Are you looking for up-and-coming three-year-olds that could have an impact in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) four weeks from now?

If so, then you’ll want to see what transpires in Saturday’s $350,000 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park. The race serves as a local prep for the Belmont Stakes, but being held at nine furlongs around one turn means that it can be won by horses with a variety of distance capabilities. Four years ago, Tonalist won the Peter Pan and went on to score in the Belmont Stakes. Two years ago, Unified won the Peter Pan and wound up being a sprinter!

In my opinion, this year’s Peter Pan is shaping up to be a battle between #1 Core Beliefs and #3 Just Whistle. The credentials of the first-named colt are obvious—after holding his own against a talented group of maidens in California, including Nero, Curly’s Rocket, Once On Whiskey, and Longden, Core Beliefs stepped up to contest the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and finished a solid third behind future Kentucky Derby winner Justify. Even better, Core Beliefs showed determination in the homestretch to finish 1 ¼ lengths in front of the graded stakes winner Instilled Regard, who came right back to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby.

That effort earned Core Beliefs a 103 BRIS speed figure, the highest in the Peter Pan field. With his blend of early speed (he broke his maiden in gate-to-wire fashion) and his ability to rate off the lead if necessary (as he did in the Santa Anita Derby), Core Beliefs should be poised for a perfect trip in the Peter Pan, especially if the speedy #5 Diamond King scratches, which could leave Core Beliefs as the likely pacesetter.

But Just Whistle should also have a say in the outcome. While the son of Pioneerof the Nile has been something of a one-dimensional late runner thus far, I loved the way he unleashed a long, sustained rally to break his maiden going 8.5-furlongs at Keeneland last month, winning by 1 ½ lengths in a spread-out field. That effort wasn’t a fluke either—Just Whistle had previously finished a close second behind Hofburg (subsequent runner-up in the Florida Derby) in a similar maiden race at Gulfstream Park.

Let’s box Core Beliefs and Just Whistle in a sizable exacta, then play them in the first two slots of a trifecta while adding the versatile #4 Blended Citizen and the recent Northern Spur Stakes winner #6 High North underneath:

$9 exacta: 1,3 with 1,3 ($18)
$3 trifecta: 1,3 with 1,3 with 4,6 ($12)

Good luck!