PETER PAN STAKES | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD | GRADE 2 | 1 1/8 MILES
Freedom Child has enjoyed an eventful career for a sophomore runner who only had one win, but everything finally went right for the Malibu Moon ridgling May 11 at rain-whipped Belmont Park.
Romping in the slop by 13 ¼ lengths to take the $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes, the chestnut runner punched his ticket to the June 8 Belmont Stakes.
Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, St. Elias Stable, and his breeder, Spendthrift Farm, Freedom Child rebounded off a 10th-place finish in the April 6 Wood Memorial Stakes, in which he ran for purse money only after being held in the gate by an assistant starter and getting away poorly.
Three starts prior to the Wood, Freedom Child tangled with eventual Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winner Orb, but was passed by that one after setting the pace. He would finish second by two lengths in the one-mile maiden special weight Nov. 24 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Freedom Child eventually went on to break his maiden in his fourth start by 5 1/4 lengths going 1 1/8 miles wire-to-wire at Gulfstream Park March 10.
"We thought we were set to run well in the Wood; we just had a little bit of bad luck," said Terry Finley, president of West Point Thoroughbreds. "The next day we put a circle around the Peter Pan. I think we're going to the Belmont Stakes in about four weeks [now].
"I hope Orb runs well in the Preakness and the whole world is watching for the Belmont, and I hope we upset the apple cart."
There was no Orb and no gate mishap in the Peter Pan. Freedom Child, taking the lead shortly after the start, splashed away to victory in a final time of 1:49.09 for nine furlongs on a sealed track. It was his first graded-stakes score for trainer Tom Albertrani, and first triumph since the maiden win.
"With the pedigree, all the experts were talking about how the Malibu Moons would relish the off going, so we weren't that concerned," Finley said. "They all have to run over the same racetrack. We thought we were coming in with a loaded gun. We knew there were some quality horses in there, but we thought if he had the chance to go down the backside on the lead and got his air, he'd be tough to beat."
Away slowly from the rail under jockey Luis Saez, 7-2 shot Freedom Child nevertheless quickly moved into stride and raced up under very mild urging to claim the lead exiting the chute. He ticked off fractions of :23.51 and :46.67 while never really challenged, opening a two-length lead up the backstretch and increasing that margin to four lengths after negotiating three-quarters in 1:10.98.
"He was a little slow coming out of there," Saez said. "I just put him in the race and he responded perfect. In the chute he wanted to run, so I let him run."
"The plan was to be on the lead. and luckily he was able to quicken up leaving the gate and get to an easy lead," Albertrani said. "Once I saw him on the lead like that I was pretty confident at the half-mile pole by the way he was traveling."
My Name Is Michael followed along in the early going tracked by Narvaez, but both faded when Freedom Child was hand-ridden off the turn and extended his advantage through the stretch.
The eventual winner ran a mile in 1:35.95 while opening up by 10 lengths before finishing up while drifting out into the center of the track. Saint Vigeur, who defeated Freedom Child in a maiden event Feb. 9 at Gulfstream, was closest after a long drive from fifth.
Go Get the Basil, following from five-wide in upper stretch, ended up 2 ¼ lengths farther back in third.
"It worked out well," Albertrani said. "I was very pleased to see him win like that. I didn't think he would actually draw away by that many lengths."
Freedom Child returned $9.20, $5.80, and $5.10 while Saint Vigeur paid $6.90 and $5.40. Go Get the Basil brought $8.60 at 16-1 in third; 5-2 favorite Abraham finished fourth. Completing the order of finish were Incognito, Fear the Kitten, My Name is Michael, Narvaez, and Infinite Magic. Battier and Declan's Warrior scratched.
Bred in Kentucky out of the Deputy Minister mare Bandstand, Freedom Child was a $350,000 purchase at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton New York select yearling sale when consigned by Warrendale Sales, agent. The Peter Pan victory improved his record to 2-1-1 from six starts, with earnings of $167,072.