08/07/2001 11:00PM

Crucial weekend for Clement


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The success of the Saratoga meet for trainer Christophe Clement depends on what happens this weekend.

Clement will have runners in all three graded stakes beginning with Friday's $100,000 Glens Falls Handicap when he sends out the uncoupled entry of Aiglonne and New Assembly. Clement will also be in action in Saturday's Grade 1 Sword Dancer with Honor Glide and/or Craigsteel and in Sunday's Grade 3 Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup with Penny's Gold.

The Grade 3 Glens Falls, run at 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf course, drew an evenly matched field of 10, including five runners from the Robert G. Dick Memorial Handicap at Delaware Park. Amourette was able to get away with ridiculously slow fractions to win that race at odds of 17-1.

Aiglonne had traffic trouble in that race and came running late to finish second, beaten a length. Clement doesn't believe the traffic was as much a hindrance as was the firm turf course. Aiglonne, a group winner in Europe, prefers some give in the ground. Clement hopes that thunderstorms forecast for Friday hit before post time.

"You cannot manage a racehorse in America according to the ground because you don't have that many opportunities," Clement said. "Sometimes you run them at a distance you want but not the ground, and sometimes you run them over the ground you want but not at the distance. If you waited for everything to be perfect you might not run your horse for a year."

Although New Assembly finished a distant eighth in the Robert G. Dick Memorial, she has shown a preference for firm ground in the past.

If she doesn't get the ground she prefers, Aiglonne should at least get a favorable pace scenario. While Amourette will once again try to wire this field, she figures to have company from Polly Jo, part of the uncoupled entry sent out by Michael Dickinson. Polly Jo is coming off a confidence-building win in a July 6 optional claiming race at Pimlico. She will be ridden by leading jockey John Velazquez.

Dickinson also sends out Melody Queen, a distance-loving Great Britain-bred mare who is coming off a fourth-place finish in the New York Handicap at Belmont. Jerry Bailey rides Melody Queen, who would also prefer some give in the ground.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has entered Irving's Baby, winner of the Grade 3 Delaware Handicap on dirt, in the Glens Falls. Since Irving's Baby is a multiple winner on turf and appreciates the longer distances, Pletcher has decided to take a shot in here. He plans to bring her back in the Personal Ensign on Aug. 24.

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