12/06/2012 2:19PM

Aqueduct: San Pablo could find room in Pletcher's first string

Tom Keyser
San Pablo should be hard to deafeat in Saturday's Queens County Stakes.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Having recently retired Stay Thirsty, Mission Impazible, and Rule, trainer Todd Pletcher has a void in his older male division.

Perhaps San Pablo can help fill it.

A winner of 8 of 14 career starts, including the Grade 3 Iselin Stakes at Monmouth in August, San Pablo appears a hard-to-beat favorite in Saturday’s $75,000 Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct. A field of six was entered for the Queens County, run at 1 1/8 miles over the main track, including Gallant Fields who finished third in an allowance race here Thursday for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.

Since returning from a physical issue after a productive winter, San Pablo has three wins from five starts. He recorded back-to-back 102 Beyer Speed Figures winning the Birdstone Stakes at Saratoga and the Grade 3 Iselin at Monmouth in a 17-day span in August.

Following a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont in September, San Pablo won the four-horse, $100,000 Swatara Stakes at Penn National on Nov. 21.

“He’s hinted at being better than what we’ve seen,” Pletcher said. “The Birdstone and Iselin were two very good races. His Jockey Club Gold Cup was disappointing; we thought he had a legitimate chance even though he was a longshot. Maybe he chased the pace a little too much that day and didn’t fire. I don’t know if it was a class issue or if he was used a little more than he needed to be.”

In the Iselin, San Pablo came from off the pace. In the Swatara, a race in which the majority of speed scratched, San Pablo was a front-running winner. Chris DeCarlo aboard for both of those victories, rides San Pablo from post 5 on Saturday.

“I think he’s pretty adaptable,” Pletcher said.”He could be on the lead if no one else shows any initiative. The key is to let him get into his rhythm. He’s a steady, grinding type that keeps chugging along.”

Isn’t He Perfect has probably seen enough of San Pablo, finishing behind him five times in his last 11 starts. In August, he was second to San Pablo in the Birdstone Stakes. Most recently, he finished third to him in the Swatara.

Tonto Fontenot, a winner of an off-the-turf allowance race by a nose last month at Laurel is in solid form, though he gets a class test in this spot.

Arch Traveler has disappointed since winning three of his first five starts last year as a 3-year-old. He has not raced around two turns since finishing sixth in the 2011 Florida Derby. Prior to that start, he won an allowance race around two turns at Gulfstream.

Indy Scent, second in a second-level allowance race at Belmont on Oct. 12, completes the field.