03/24/2003 12:00AM

Dubai World Cup to cap Pletcher's big week


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Todd Pletcher's busy week began Saturday with Lion Tamer's fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park. It continued on Sunday with two stakes winners within a half-hour span: Tweedside at Gulfstream Park in the Grade 2 Orchid Handicap and Smok'n Frolic at Aqueduct in the Grade 3 Next Move Handicap. Pletcher's hectic week ends this Saturday, halfway around the world, when he sends out Harlan's Holiday in the $6 million Dubai World Cup.

"This game is up and downs," Pletcher said after Tweedside's victory. "You lose one and hope to rebound the next day. You've got to keep an even keel."

Pletcher, who is scheduled to depart for Dubai on Tuesday, found time Monday to make his way to the Palm Meadow Training Center in Boynton Beach, where he worked two of his other upcoming stakes candidates - Balto Star and Purely Classic. Balto Star went a half-mile in 48 seconds, Purely Classic breezed the same distance in 49.60.

Pletcher is considering both the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap Saturday and Aqueduct's Grade 3 Excelsior Handicap the following weekend for Balto Star. Purely Classic will definitely run here Sunday, in the $75,000 Caltech Handicap on the turf.

"Right now, I'm leaning towards the Excelsior for Balto Star," Pletcher said. "That race is at a mile and one-eighth, and it might just suit him better than the Gulfstream Park Handicap, which is at a mile and one-quarter. And with Niall O'Callaghan's horse [Generous Rosi] probably going in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, Balto Star won't be able to shake loose on the lead. In addition, it's been very warm down here, and my horse is just not a hot-weather horse."

Pletcher confirmed that Purely Classic, a tiring seventh in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes on Feb. 21, is a definite starter for the 1 1/8-mile Caltech Handicap. Edgar Prado will ride.

Balto Star would be the 118-pound starting highweight if Pletcher has a change of heart and decides to keep him in town for the Gulfstream Park Handicap. If not, The Judge Sez Who will top the starters at 117 pounds and face a field that is expected to include Hero's Tribute (115), Learned (115), Windsor Castle (115), Generous Rosi (114), Puzzlement (114), Bonus Pack (113), Aeneas (112), and possibly Global Quest (112).

Trainer Bill Mott said that he will look over the field, but is inclined to pass the Gulfstream Park Handicap with Strive, who finished a late-running third in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap earlier this month.

"It might be just a bit too quick to bring him back off his last start," Mott said.

Meanwhile, Learned - a well-beaten fifth in the New Orleans Handicap after dropping far off the early pace - was expected to fly to Florida from Louisiana on Tuesday. Regular rider Calvin Borel will be aboard again on Saturday.

Aeneas worked five furlongs in 1:01 at Calder on Monday for trainer Marty Wolfson.

Riddlesdown out with eye infection

Riddlesdown, conspicuous by his absence in Saturday's Grade 2 Pan American Handicap, is suffering from a severe eye infection as a result of a fungus he contracted earlier this month, trainer Niall O'Callaghan said.

"He's still at the clinic and he could wind up losing the eye," said O'Callaghan. "It's nothing life or career threatening but it is very serious."

Riddlesdown won the Grade 3 Mac Diarmida Handicap on Jan. 19 in an upset.

Nafzger, Orseno finally win

Trainers Carl Nafzger and Joe Orseno saddled their first winners of the meet Sunday. Nafzger snapped his losing streak with And Nobody Knows in the third race. Orseno won less than 90 minutes later with Boom Bay Yay, who ran down pacesetting Tempus Fugit in a race switched from the turf to a sloppy main track.

Nafzger has already sent a string of horses to Kentucky in preparation for the opening of the Keeneland meet. Orseno, who shipped down with only six horses in December, will head north with 30 in his barn when he leaves town in April.

First baby race goes Wednesday

The season's first race for 2-year-olds is set for Wednesday. The race will be run out of the quarter pole chute, at three furlongs under maiden special weights conditions. A field of seven fillies and colts will start, led by trainer Pat Byrne's Standswithafist, who has been working well for her debut at Palm Meadows. Two other Palm Meadow-based trainers, George Weaver (Seattle Borders) and Rick Violette (Yzerman), also are represented in the race.

Weaver worked Color Me Gone five furlongs in 1:04.60 at the training center on Monday. Color Me Gone, a 3-year-old son of Skip Away, is nominated to the Caltech.