05/08/2002 11:00PM

Don't knock Left Bank's chances


ELMONT, N.Y. - At first glance, it would appear that Saturday's $100,000 Bold Ruler Handicap would be a good opportunity to play against probable odds-on favorite Left Bank. He has not been out since last November, trainer Todd Pletcher plans to bring him back in the Metropolitan Handicap 16 days later, and six furlongs is not his preferred distance.

Upon further review, it may be folly to play against Left Bank in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler. He has run some of his best races off a layoff, he loves Belmont Park, and he could be the main speed of the five horses entered in the six-furlong dash.

After popping a splint bone in last year's Metropolitan Handicap, Left Bank returned to win three of his final five races of 2001, including Grade 1 victories in the Vosburgh and Cigar Mile. He was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, a race in which speed held very well.

Pletcher was preparing Left Bank for a start in Florida when the horse bruised a foot. That explains why he is on an accelerated program to make the Met Mile on May 27. Left Bank has won his last three starts off a layoff and is 4 for 6 at Belmont.

"I think, as a rule, with my first-time starters and horses off a layoff I put them in a position where they're fit enough, but I try not to overdo it,'' Pletcher said. "This horse has a history of running well fresh. He's fit enough where he's going to run well. I would hope he doesn't run his very best race on Saturday, but hopefully he'll run well enough to win and gets enough out of it where he can move forward to the Met Mile.''

Left Bank will break from post 4 under John Velazquez and top weight of 121 pounds.

Wrangler, the top sprinter of the winter, makes his return to the races off a two-month freshening. After winning in the Paumonok at Aqueduct and the General George at Laurel Park, Wrangler finished fourth as the 4-5 favorite in the Toboggan Handicap.

"He bled in that race, tied up afterwards, and his blood count was off,'' trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. "We've freshened him up since and hopefully, that will make a difference.''

Say Florida Sandy, the richest New York-bred in history, gets the services of Jerry Bailey. Silky Sweep has run some of his best races at Belmont. Late Carson, who is also entered in Saturday's Damitrius at Delaware Park, has finished first or second in seven of his last eight outings.

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