04/20/2006 12:00AM

Beware the Pletcher mare

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Fleet Indian, winning the Grade 3 Next Move on March 26, is unbeaten in three races at 1 1/8 miles.

CHICAGO - In Ashado, trainer Todd Pletcher used to have an occasionally dominant player in the national distaff division. Now that Ashado has retired, it is Pletcher himself who is dominating the national distaff division.

Indian Vale, a horse many believe is Pletcher's best older female runner, hasn't even made her 2006 debut, but in recent weeks, Pletcher has won the Rampart at Gulfstream with Oonagh Maccool, the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn with Spun Sugar, and on Wednesday at Keeneland, the Doubledogdare with the up-and-coming Pool Land.

And there still is more ammunition in the country's most powerful stable. For the Grade 3, $250,000 Sixty Sails Handicap on Saturday at Hawthorne, Pletcher has Fleet Indian, a 5-year-old mare who might not be first string in her own barn, but is plenty good enough to win the Sixty Sails.

, in from New York with Jose Santos named to ride, has seven rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Sixty Sails, which Pletcher won last year with Isola Piu Bella. Fleet Indian has made just one start since Pletcher took over her training duties, and in it Fleet Indian won her first graded stakes, taking the Grade 3 Next Move on March 26 at Aqueduct. The Next Move was no Breeders' Cup race, and Fleet Indian beat just three rivals, but she has won 8 of her 13 career starts and is unbeaten in three races at the Sixty Sails distance. Fleet Indian possesses tactical speed and should be no worse than second - if outside-drawn For Gillian is sent for the lead - going into the first turn.

appears to be Fleet Indian's main rival, having finished fourth behind Spun Sugar, Happy Ticket, and the solid older mare La Reason last out in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn. Two starts ago, Platinum Ballet was third to Round Pond and Happy Ticket, and it seems fair to say she is taking a substantial class drop Saturday for trainer Donnie Von Hemel. Cliff Berry, the leading rider at Lone Star, is giving up a day's worth of mounts in Texas in order to ride Platinum Ballet, who breaks from the rail.

can contend, but only if she bounces back from a fifth-place finish in her last start, the March 25 Rampart. The well-traveled Culinary finished far behind Platinum Ballet in the Pippin Stakes on Feb. 23 at Oaklawn, but is a better filly than that and has won multiple minor stakes for trainer Mike Stidham.