05/21/2002 11:00PM

A Belmont horse for Jerkens?


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Allen Jerkens shoots for his fourth Peter Pan win on Saturday at Belmont Park with Puzzlement, an improving colt who could earn a berth in the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 8 with a good performance.

The $200,000 Peter Pan, a Grade 2 race, could yield a few starters for the Belmont Stakes, where War Emblem will make his bid to become racing's first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

Jerkens, a Hall of Fame trainer who has been nicknamed the Giant Killer for his knack for upsetting favorites in stakes, has won a considerable number of New York's most important races, but the Belmont has eluded him.

After winning the 1993 Peter Pan with Virginia Rapids, Jerkens finished fifth with the colt in the Belmont. In the 1998 Belmont, Jerkens saddled Limit Out to a ninth-place finish, and the following year, Jerkens finished fourth with Peter Pan winner Best of Luck.

Jerkens's 1997 Peter Pan winner, Banker's Gold, didn't run in the Belmont.

, who is owned by Joseph Shields Jr., a vice chairman at the New York Racing Association, will make his fifth start and stakes debut in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan. The colt debuted at Gulfstream Park in March and broke through the maiden ranks in his third start, winning a two-turn race on March 30. In his last race, Puzzlement, a closer, won a 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Aqueduct on May 3.

"He's making forward progress," Jerkens said. "We'll see what happens. If he runs good, he'll run back in the Belmont. He gives the impression he'll be okay going long, but that doesn't always take place. It remains to be seen if he has that kind of class, but you don't know until you try."

Jean-Luc Samyn will ride Puzzlement, whose sire, Pine Bluff, finished third in the 1992 Belmont.

The Peter Pan favorite will be Sunday Break, who makes his first start since finishing third in the Wood Memorial. Neil Drysdale, who completed the Peter Pan/Belmont double with A. P. Indy in 1992, trains Sunday Break.

Other definites are Fast Decision, Ibn Al Haitham, and Heir D' Twine. Trainer Christophe Clement said in addition to running Withers winner Fast Decision, he also might enter Fireballer, a winner of his last two. Essayons will be cross-entered in the Peter Pan, which will be drawn Thursday, and a Sunday allowance race.

Ibn Al Haitham worked five furlongs in 1:00.45 on Wednesday.