Peter Pan tide turns Virginia Rapids into possible contender for Belmont

NEW YORK -- The horse is going great. The trainer is going great. The distance fits. He's relatively fresh. His opponents would be relatively beaten down after rounds one and two of the Triple Crown. He won the prep race that matters.

Virginia Rapids and the June 5 Belmont Stakes would seem to fit like salt and pepper.


Only Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens is not so sure. After Virginia Rapids roared to a freakishly good victory in yesterday's Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park, Jerkens found himself faced with some difficult decisions.

"I'm not going to rule the Belmont out for sure, but I'm thinking of the [July 3] Dwyer," he said. "We'll see. Though he's a big, rangy horse, I'm not comfortable having his races too close together. But with the magnitude of the Belmont, we might have to stretch the point if we feel he'll do it."


No trainer is respected more than Jerkens, who has never won a Triple Crown race. He can be counted on to make the right move. Virginia Rapids also can be counted on for a good effort, no matter where he runs.

The 3-year-old colt by Riverman put on quite a show yesterday. Under Eddie Maple, Virginia Rapids wasn't in the same ZIP code as the rest of the field down the backstretch. It didn't seem that any horse could make up that much ground.

"That's just his style," Maple said. "The only thing Allen stressed to me was don't try and change anything with him. As relaxed as he is now, I imagine he could run from here to Chicago. If he has enough kick in him to run down a Prairie Bayou and a Sea Hero, we'll have to see."

With about three furlongs left, Maple asked Virginia Rapids for the one explosive run that he has. He took off like a wild horse and flew past Colonial Affair in deep stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

It was even better than his performance in the Withers, when the same late run was good enough for second behind Williamstown, who set a track record.

Virginia Rapids paid $5 and completed the nine furlongs run over a fast track in 1:48 2/5. Colonial Affair was easily second best, finishing four lengths in front of Itaka.

Last year, A.P. Indy used a Peter Pan victory as a springboard to winning the Belmont 13 days later. He also went on to be Horse of the Year.