Updated on 09/16/2011 7:26AM

New shooters use Peter Pan

Sunday Break, who was shut out of the Kentucky Derby and then skipped the Preakness, is the likely favorite for the Peter Pan.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Last year was just the second time since 1975 that the Peter Pan did not produce at least one starter for the Belmont Stakes. Saturday's 49th renewal of the Peter Pan, which drew a field of eight, is expected to have a bigger impact on the third leg of the Triple Crown.

Two - and perhaps as many as four - horses entered in the nine-furlong Peter Pan could use the $200,000 race as a prep for the Belmont on June 8. Since being reinstated in 1975, the Peter Pan has produced five Belmont winners, most recently Lemon Drop Kid in 1999.

The two Peter Pan starters most likely to return in the Belmont to try and thwart War Emblem's Triple Crown bid are Sunday Break and Puzzlement. However, strong performances from Fast Decision and Ibn Al Haitham could sway their connections to give the Belmont a try as well.

Essayons and Deputy Dash could scratch out of the Peter Pan to run in an allowance race on Sunday, and neither Heir D'Twine nor Fireballer is Triple Crown nominated, meaning it would cost their connections a $100,000 supplemental fee to get into the Belmont field.

When trainer Neil Drysdale shipped Sunday Break to New York in early March, he did so with the idea of getting him to the Kentucky Derby. A win in an allowance race and a good third in a competitive Wood Memorial seemed to prepare Sunday Break for the Derby. But a roadblock landed in Sunday Break's path when he couldn't get into the oversubscribed Derby field because of a lack of sufficient earnings in graded-stakes company.

Drysdale, by choice, skipped the Preakness with Sunday Break, opting to point for the Peter Pan and Belmont. Drysdale, who in 1992 won the Peter Pan and Belmont with A.P. Indy, said he had no regrets passing the Preakness.

"I'm pleased with the program that we're following," Drysdale said. "If he runs well in the Peter Pan and we like what we see, then we'll go on to the Belmont. First of all, he has to have a good showing in the Peter Pan before we consider the Belmont. I would expect to see a good performance."

Drysdale said he is pleased with the progress Sunday Break has made from the Wood to now.

"I think he's strengthened," Drysdale said. "He's a late-maturing colt. At this time of year these 3-year-olds are maturing. In that respect, I think time can only help."

Trainer Allen Jerkens will seek his fourth Peter Pan victory in the last 10 years, with Puzzlement, who makes his stakes debut. Puzzlement, a late-running son of Forty Niner, has won his last two starts, and has shown Jerkens he may want even more ground.

Asked what he would need to see from Puzzlement to continue on to the Belmont, Jerkens said, "He'd have to be rolling at the finish, that's the main thing."

Fast Decision, a son of Gulch, has won three consecutive races, including the Grade 3 Withers, making him the only graded winner in the Peter Pan field. Though trainer Christophe Clement said Fast Decision has become a more relaxed colt with each race, he sees a scenario Saturday in which his horse is on the lead under Jose Santos.

"I'm just going to tell Santos to ride your own race, just break and sit," Clement said. "If you're in front, you're in front - it doesn't matter."

Clement said he wants to see if his horse could handle nine furlongs before he even considers running him 12 furlongs in the Belmont.

"That's one of the main reasons we're running him there, is to find out if he stays a mile and an eighth," Clement said. "Where do we go next? That's jumping the creek before we get there."

Fast Decision will be coupled with Fireballer because both horses are owned by Peter Karchess. Fireballer has won his last two, but is not being considered for the Belmont.

Ibn Al Haitham is still a maiden, but has finished in the money in two graded events. Tom Albertrani, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, said he views the Peter Pan as an opportunity to win a stakes against "a moderate group of horses" rather than as a Belmont prep.

In other Belmont developments Thursday:

* Triple Crown hopeful War Emblem went back to the track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., for the first time since his Preakness victory, and galloped an easy mile under exercise rider Mick Jenner. The colt was one of the first horses on the track after the harrow break at about 8:15 a.m. Eastern, and was back in the barn before 8:30.

"He's just wanting to do something," said Jenner, noting that the colt was a bit anxious during the first part of the gallop.

"The more you do with him, the tougher he gets," said John Good, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert.

Meanwhile, Baffert, who went home to California on Tuesday, was expected back at Churchill this weekend.

Baffert has tentatively scheduled workouts for War Emblem on the next two Tuesdays, and the colt is scheduled to be flown to New York early on the morning of June 5.

* Proud Citizen, second in the Derby and third in the Preakness for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, was one of the first horses on the track before dawn Thursday at Churchill. The colt resumed training with a light jog Wednesday morning, then had a regular gallop Thursday.

* Perfect Drift, the Derby third-place finisher who skipped the Preakness, will work Monday and then again the following Saturday, said trainer Murray Johnson. Perfect Drift, stabled at the Trackside training facility five miles from Churchill, was schooled in the starting gate Thursday before his regular 1 1/2-mile gallop. "Everything is absolutely perfect," said Johnson. "Hopefully it continues that way."

* Essence of Dubai, the ninth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, breezed five furlongs in 1:03.89 Thursday at Belmont. It was the third slowest of 22 moves at the distance.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee

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