Updated on 09/16/2011 8:04AM

Cloak-and-dagger allowance

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Sunday Break wins a Wednesday allowance at Aqueduct, written to serve as a prep for the Wood.

A dizzying array of moves took place Wednesday involving horses and jockeys pointing for the Kentucky Derby, but none were as intriguing as the behind-the-scenes planning that got Sunday Break to Aqueduct for an allowance victory Wednesday afternoon.

Sunday Break used the 1 1/8-mile race as at prep for the April 13 Wood Memorial. But Neil Drysdale, the trainer of Sunday Break, had to improvise with the colt's training and race schedule, then only let a few in on his plan, and only if a vow of silence was promised.

Drysdale was facing a situation that arises every day with trainers who have good horses. If the trainer of such an animal wants to run in a stakes race, he merely checks the schedule, trains up to the race, gets a jockey, and enters. But if a trainer wants to run that horse in an allowance race, he has to hold his breath and hope the race goes.

Unlike stakes races, allowance races - and any other undercard race in a condition book - make it from condition book to the afternoon's program only if enough horses are entered to satisfy the track's racing secretary. Oftentimes, if too few horses are entered, a substitute race from the condition book will be used instead.

After Sunday Break won an allowance race at Santa Anita last month, Drysdale at first thought Sunday Break would run in Santa Anita's San Felipe Stakes on

March 17. But as that race drew closer, Drysdale thought Sunday Break needed more time between races. He also thought Sunday Break would benefit from training and racing outside of California.

The trouble was, Drysdale's options were limited. One week following the San Felipe were the Spiral Stakes and Rushaway Stakes at Turfway, and the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, neither of which Drysdale found appealing. Then, the New York Racing Association came to the rescue.

Mike Lakow, the racing secretary and handicapper, and Andrew Byrnes, the stakes coordinator, scheduled an allowance race for Wednesday that perfectly suited Drysdale: two turns, at the same site as the Wood, 2 1/2 weeks before the Wood. Sunday Break's jockey, Gary Stevens, would be returning from Dubai, so he could stop in New York on the way home. And Drysdale likes Aqueduct, having won the Wood two years ago with subsequent Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

The allowance race, however, had to get a suitable number of entrants in order to be carded Wednesday. And that made Drysdale anxious. He did not want to go public with his plans, fearing too few horses would enter the race for it to be run in the afternoon. So last week, when Drysdale sent Sunday Break from his base at Hollywood Park to Aqueduct, he did not make that public immediately.

Entries for Wednesday's card were taken on Saturday. In order to keep from tipping his hand before then, Drysdale waited until Saturday morning to work Sunday Break at Aqueduct. Only then did anyone outside of a few trusted souls - and the Aqueduct racing office - know Sunday Break was in town. And by then, it was too late for anyone thinking of entering the race to reconsider and not submit an entry card.

While this may look like a lot of trouble to go through for a nonwinners-of-two allowance race, Drysdale's fears were seemingly justified on Wednesday when one of the horses entered in the race was withdrawn, leaving only four rivals. Considering that Sunday Break went off at 1-5, it is questionable how many of those four would have entered had they known Sunday Break was going to run.

"I'm delighted," Drysdale said from New York. "The race should do him good. After the wire, he galloped out strongly. He took off. He probably ran faster the eighth after the wire than he did at any point in the race."

In other Derby developments Wednesday:

* Gotham Stakes winner Mayakovsky breezed five furlongs in 58.60 seconds Wednesday morning at Santa Anita and now is more likely to run in the Santa Anita Derby on April 6 than return to New York for the Wood. "It is three weeks from the Gotham to the Santa Anita Derby, then four weeks to the Kentucky Derby. Or we could wait four weeks from the Gotham to the Wood Memorial, then three weeks to the Kentucky Derby. Our target is the Kentucky Derby," said Patrick Biancone, who trains Mayakovsky. No matter where Mayakovsky runs, he will need a new jockey. Edgar Prado is committed to ride Harlan's Holiday on April 13 in the Blue Grass Stakes, and on April 6, Prado has several mounts at Oaklawn, including Bowman's Band in the Oaklawn Handicap.

- Prado worked Harlan's Holiday at Gulfstream on Wednesday morning. The colt went a leisurely five furlongs in 1:03.40.

- Pat Day has picked up the mount on Buddha for the Wood Memorial. That leaves Mr. Mellon in need of a rider for either the Blue Grass or Arkansas Derby.

- It looks as though Fonz's will bypass the Santa Anita Derby and instead ship to Keeneland for the Blue Grass, according to trainer and co-owner David LaCroix. "I don't know if he likes that surface," LaCroix said of Santa Anita, where Fonz's finished fifth in the San Rafael. "He didn't finish as well as I'd have liked in a work there on Saturday." Fonz's is stabled year-round at Hollywood Park.

- Horses who were not nominated to the Triple Crown for $600 in January can still be made eligible with a one-time payment of $6,000 by midnight Saturday. Among those expected to be nominated are Medaglia d'Oro, the winner of the San Felipe, and the filly Take Charge Lady.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch