Unified wins Peter Pan Stakes, doubtful for Belmont Stakes

Unified held off Governor Malibu by three-quarters of a length Saturday in the $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park.

Unified remained unbeaten at 3 for 3 with the victory in the traditional prep for the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown on June 11.

Unified, the 1-2 favorite, was a dazzling winner of his previous two races at shorter distances. The colt and jockey Jose Ortiz were all out to prevail in the Peter Pan at 1 1/8 miles, raising the question of whether the Belmont Stakes at 1 1-2 miles falls within his scope.

Count winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens among the skeptical.

“I don’t know about the 2018 Belmont Stakes,” Jerkens said. “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.”

Unified, never worse than third, put away the pacesetting Singleton midway on the turn. He dashed clear to a three-length lead at the top of the stretch only to see that margin dwindle as Governor Malibu launched his rally.

The time was 1:47.14.

Unified paid $3.10, $2.70 and $2.20.

Governor Malibu returned $6.70 and $3.80, and Wild About Deb paid $2.80 to show.

In other stakes on the card:

The German-bred Wake Forest found an opening in deep stretch and surged to victory in the richest race of the day, the $400,000 Man o’ War on the turf.

The 6-year-old ridden by John Velazquez beat Money Multiplier by three-quarters of a length, giving trainer Chad Brown a 1-2 finish in the 1 3/8 miles stakes.

Wake Forest paid $6.30 to win as the 2-1 favorite. The time was 2:12.94.

— Cavorting romped to a five-length victory over even-money favorite Carrumba in the $250,000 Ruffian for fillies and mares.

The 4-year-old trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by Javier Castellano improved to 6 for 11, paying $7.80 to win.

The time was 1:34.05 for the mile.

—Strike Charmer pulled a 9-1 upset in the $150,000 Beaugay for fillies and mares on the turf. The 6-year-old rallied from fourth to beat Tapitry by 2 1/4 lengths, her fifth win in 18 starts. The time was 1:39.22 for the 1 1/16 miles.

Irad Ortiz Jr. rode for trainer Mark Hennig as Strike Charmer paid $20 to win.

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