Updated on 09/16/2011 8:27AM

Sunday Break fires warning shot


ELMONT, N.Y. - Sunday Break announced his presence as a potential spoiler in War Emblem's bid to win the Triple Crown with a professional one-length victory over Puzzlement in Saturday's $200,000, Grade 2 at Belmont Park. It was two lengths back to Deputy Dash, who finished third.

Provided all goes well the next two weeks, both Sunday Break and Puzzlement will be in the starting gate for the 134th Belmont Stakes on June 8. They will most likely be the only two horses from the Peter Pan to run back in the Belmont as dismal showings by Ibn Al Haitham and Fast Decision swept them off the Triple Crown trail.

That means there will be probably be a field of 11 to 14 in the Belmont. Considered likely starters are War Emblem, Proud Citizen, Magic Weisner, Perfect Drift, Essence of Dubai, Like a Hero, Request for Parole, Sarava, Table Limit, Sunday Break, and Puzzlement. Tracemark, Wiseman's Ferry, and Medaglia d'Oro are considered possible.

Sunday Break, a Japanese-bred son of Forty Niner, was kept out of the oversubscribed Kentucky Derby field due to lack of graded-stakes earnings. Trainer Neil Drysdale opted to skip the Preakness as well, meaning the Peter Pan was Sunday Break's first race since finishing third in the Wood Memorial on April 13.

He showed more professionalism than he did winning a March 27 allowance race at Aqueduct, and a stronger closing kick than he did when he couldn't pass Buddha or Medaglia d'Oro in the stretch of the Wood.

"He matured a lot from the Wood Memorial," winning rider Gary Stevens said. "He's gained weight, gotten stronger back behind - which was what Neil was hoping for - and got the job done. I'm pretty optimistic about the Belmont, providing he comes out of the race in good order."

Sunday Break broke alertly on Saturday, but was soon reined in by Stevens and allowed to settle in behind the speed. Down the backstretch, Sunday Break raced in fourth position, between rivals, while Essayons and Deputy Dash set fractions of 23.41 seconds, 45.92, and 1:09.81.

While still maintaining a long hold on Sunday Break, Stevens moved his mount three wide approaching the quarter pole. Sunday Break struck the front approaching the eighth pole, and it wasn't until inside the furlong marker that Stevens asked him to run. Sunday Break ran his last eighth in 12.90 seconds while only being shown the whip by Stevens. He covered the nine furlongs in 1:48.10 over a fast track and returned $3.10 as the 1-2 favorite.

"I think that was the kind of trip Neil was hoping for - it was definitely the kind of trip I was hoping for," Stevens said. "Neil told me just to track the speed and come home strong. I had a good lead coming to the eighth pole, and really didn't have to squeeze him at all. I think he won with something left."

"I think we got what we needed out of this race," said Drysdale, who won the 1992 Peter Pan and Belmont Stakes with A.P. Indy.

Puzzlement, who was last of seven through the first half-mile, closed well to be second, and prompted trainer Allen Jerkens to commit to the Belmont.

"I was afraid the winner was a good horse; I picked him to win the Derby," Jerkens said. "We have to try the Belmont if we pull up good and we train good. What the hell? You don't get many chances at it."

Since being reinstated in 1975 after a 14-year hiatus, the Peter Pan has produced five Belmont winners: Coastal (1979), Danzig Connection (1986), A.P. Indy (1992), Colonial Affair (1993), and Lemon Drop Kid (1999). Counterpoint (1951), High Gun (1954), Gallant Man (1957), and Cavan (1958) all won the Belmont after winning the Peter Pan.

In other Belmont developments, Saturday at Churchill Downs:

* Triple Crown hopeful War Emblem had another uneventful morning when undergoing his usual routine, galloping 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Mick Jenner.

Trainer Bob Baffert, who went home to California for a few days during the week, was back to watch War Emblem train. Baffert said War Emblem will breeze Wednesday, instead of Tuesday, as he had tentatively planned.

* Proud Citizen, second in the Derby and third in the Preakness, also had another routine morning. He and his Belmont-bound stablemate, Table Limit, will work Monday or Tuesday, said trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

* Wiseman's Ferry, a Belmont possible, had his first breeze since winning the May 11 Lone Star Derby, going a half-mile in 48.60 under Samantha Whitehall. Trainer Niall O'Callaghan said he will wait until the colt works again next week to determine his Belmont status.

* Perfect Drift is scheduled to work six furlongs Monday morning at the Trackside training facility for trainer Murray Johnson. Request for Parole will work Tuesday on the Churchill turf, and Sarava could work Wednesday.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee