10/22/2002 12:00AM

BC Countdown - Juvenile Fillies: Pletcher filly may have shot if others falter

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher and Richard Migliore are realists. As the trainer and jockey of Appleby Gardens, Pletcher and Migliore understand the daunting task at hand in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

This year's Juvenile Fillies field looks exceptionally strong with Storm Flag Flying, Santa Catarina, Composure, and Ivanavinalot leading the way. But Appleby Gardens's third-place finish - although a distant third - behind Storm Flag Flying and Santa Catarina in the Grade 1 Frizette compelled owner Eugene Melnyk to take a chance. After all, this is horse racing, where nothing's certain.

"She's actually a real nice filly," Pletcher said of Appleby Gardens, a $2 million daughter of A.P. Indy. "This is probably coming up a little sooner for her than it really needed to. I feel like she's going to handle a mile and an eighth. We're hoping that she improves a little bit and maybe the other ones come back a little bit and she might be able to get a small piece of it."

Added Migliore, "We're a longshot. I don't think we're a longshot without a chance."

A Canadian-bred, Appleby Gardens began her career in the restricted Shady Well Stakes at Woodbine, which she won by a head.

Appleby Gardens ran back in the Grade 1 Spinaway on Aug. 30, where she broke last out of the gate, raced wide and passed tiring horses to finish sixth, 10 1/2 lengths behind Awesome Humor.

"Awful trip," Migliore said. "I felt we should have been third that day. She broke slow, got shuffled back. It was a wet, greasy track, and she got so much mud and dirt in her face and we wound up having to swing out real wide. I told Todd that day she belongs with those fillies."

Pletcher tried the division's best in the Frizette, where she raced in contention for the first six furlongs, but could not match strides with Storm Flag Flying or Santa Catarina late and was beaten 13 3/4 lengths.

"The one thing on this filly's side is that she is lightly raced and she will stay," Migliore said. "No doubt the mile and an eighth is well within her reach. Going in, if we get a check, it's a great thing. If something goes wrong with one of the two big fillies, we got a chance."

A stretch for Humorous Lady

Another filly taking a chance is Humorous Lady, who will try to stretch out to nine furlongs two weeks after winning the Astarita Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs. Trainer Michael Smith was at Belmont Tuesday, and saw his filly for the first time since the Astarita.

"She looks like she's put a little weight on since we left," Smith said. "If she didn't come out of the race so good we wouldn't be doing it. I know what she was ready to do the other day, and she got a lot out of that race. We might as well try it for a million dollars. A lot of times the first time sprinters go a route of ground is the best they're going to do."