Updated on 09/16/2011 7:27AM

Sunday Break matures in Peter Pan


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 in third place.

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

Sunday Break, a Japanese-bred son of Forty Niner, was kept out of the oversubscribed Kentucky Derby field because of low graded-stakes earnings. Trainer Neil Drysdale opted to skip the Preakness, too, making the Peter Pan Sunday Break's first race since a third-place finish in the Wood Memorial 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."

Saturday, Sunday Break broke alertly, 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 He covered the nine furlongs in 1:48.10 over a fast track and returned $3.10. His Beyer Speed Figure was only 99.

"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.

"We have to try the Belmont if we pull up good and we train good," Jerkens said. "What the hell? You don't get many chances at it."