06/24/2007 11:00PM

Expect to see Pleasant Strike at least once more


CHICAGO - With a month's break between races, Todd Pletcher sees no reason for Pleasant Strike not to use his impressive win last Saturday in the Arlington Classic as a bridge to the American Derby on July 21 here.

"As long as he continues to run like he did the other day, we're there, and that's a great series," Pletcher said Monday from New York. "We'd love to participate in all three legs."

Leg 3 of Arlington's Mid-America Triple is the Grade 1 Secretariat on Aug. 11, and judging from his performance Saturday, Pleasant Strike might be good enough for an appearance there, too. Pleasant Strike lost twice after an eight-length turf maiden win this past winter at Gulfstream, but overcame a wide trip to win a Polytrack allowance last month at Arlington. Saturday, he got an ideal trip under Rene Douglas, which helped, but good fortune alone didn't account for his 3 3/4-length win.

"I thought he ran very, very well," said Pletcher. "He finally raced the way we thought he was capable of."

Pleasant Strike is by Smart Strike, but his damsire, Pleasant Colony, appears to have come out in him, too. Pleasant Strike is a dark bay, big and strong, and his physical attributes could serve him well through the summer.

Jennie R. dramatically improves at 6

In two starts, Jennie R. has gone from struggling mare to graded stakes hopeful - and trainer Michelle Boyce can't really say how it happened.

Jennie R. won a maiden race and an entry-level allowance in consecutive Arlington starts way back in late summer 2004, but then went on a losing streak that lasted two years and a month. Even after Jennie R. won a Hawthorne dirt race last fall, she finished her season with a pair of distant losses.

But Jennie R. looked like a different horse winning a $50,000 turf claimer on June 3, the first start of her 6-year-old season, and was even better in last Saturday's Reluctant Guest, setting a fast pace and easily holding off Chic Dancer, winner of the Grade 3 Modesty last summer.

"I turned her out through the winter, and she came back a different horse," Boyce said. "I have no idea why. She's so much more relaxed now. She used to be so unsettled, susceptible to ulcers, really nervous. It used to be you couldn't keep weight on her, but now she holds her flesh. I wish I could take some credit, but I don't know why it happened."

Boyce hasn't yet committed Jennie R. to a coming race, but the Modesty comes up in three weeks, and would be a natural spot if Jennie R. continues to thrive.

Snowblind Friend relishes Polytrack

Snowblind Friend was not a preposterous 43-1 in Sunday's Native Dancer Stakes, like he had been winning an entry-level allowance last month at Arlington in his 3-year-old debut, but 5-1 in a six-horse field was not bad, and Snowblind Friend probably earned a start in the July 14 Round Table Stakes with a neck victory over Galloping Home in the Native Dancer, a 1 1/16-mile overnight stakes.

Snowblind Friend now is 2 for 2 on Arlington's Polytrack, and after watching his horse labor home fourth June 9 in a Prairie Meadows dirt stakes, trainer Hugh Robertson said he believes Snowblind Friend does better on the all-weather surface.

"He acted like he got really tired on that track, and you wouldn't think he would, because I thought he was reasonably fit," Robertson said of the Prairie Meadows race. "Maybe the dirt track he doesn't handle as well, and that makes it harder, but you could see with his action he was a dead horse at the eighth pole that day. This track, he finishes strong and comes off his races so good. At 5:30 yesterday he was squealing for his feed."

One horse Robertson said he would fear in the Round Table is Lovango, second in Saturday's Arlington Classic, and trained by Robertson's son, Mac. Lovango also is possible for the American Derby the week after the Round Table, Hugh Robertson said.

"He trains pretty well on Polytrack, and I suspect he'd run on it," Robertson said. "It depends on how tough the American Derby is going to come up."

Sumneytown on a roll

In her last five starts, the filly Sumneytown has four wins - and a trip around the Keeneland track as a spectator. A bump and a stumble a couple strides into an April 6 Keeneland allowance race, and down went Sumneytown's rider, Corey Lanerie. Sumneytown didn't get crazy, galloping gently around the oval many lengths behind the field. Instead, she got even, easily winning a starter-allowance race five weeks later at Churchill.

Except for the Keeneland incident, winning is all Sumneytown has done for months. She won Dec. 30 at Fair Grounds in a $16,000 claimer, a race from which she was claimed by trainer Tom Amoss, and then ran through two allowance conditions at Fair Grounds before taking that starter allowance. And while Sumneytown upgrades to a third-level allowance race in the featured second race Wednesday, she still looks like the horse to beat.

Sumneytown, owned by the Karnak Galactic Stable, has only six rivals, and though she has sprinted in her recent wins, Sumneytown appears to have the tools for an Arlington one-turn mile. Last fall, she won a race over Polytrack at Turfway Park.

Sumneytown's key rivals could be Unreal Rocket, who has on her resume a win at this class level, and La Cocasse, a second-level allowance winner last out for the Todd Pletcher barn.