03/06/2002 12:00AM

Harlan's Holiday on track for rematch

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Harlan's Holiday, beaten by Booklet in the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth Stakes, worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 here Wednesday as he remains on target for another rematch with his arch-rival in the $1 million Florida Derby on March 16.

Trainer Ken McPeek had exercise rider Lorna Vanderford breeze on Wednesday. Edgar Prado, who will be aboard Harlan's Holiday for the first time in the Florida Derby, is serving a seven-day riding suspension and is out of town.

"Harlan's Holiday went five furlongs today because his race isn't for another 10 days," McPeek said. "I'll come back with him next Tuesday and work him a half. Today was just a maintenance work - a piece of cake. He's doing well. Right now I'm just trying to keep him happy until the race."

Nokoma, another Florida Derby colt, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 with Cindy Hutter up on Tuesday. Nokoma finished fourth behind Booklet and Harlan's Holiday in the Holy Bull Stakes.

"He worked super," said Nokoma's trainer, Todd Pletcher. "He finished the final quarter-mile in 23.60 and did it all on his own. Cindy was just sitting high in the saddle. He's definitely on the improve and a lot more confident with himself right now.

"You could see the transformation ever since they changed the track," added Pletcher, referring to Gulfstream's reworking of the racing strip in February.

Pletcher expects a big effort from Nokoma in the Florida Derby.

"If you go by the Holy Bull, we've got 12 lengths to make up on those other horses, and I know we're a lot closer to them now than we were back then," said Pletcher. "He's coming into the race well and I expect him to run well. Whether that means he'll finish first or fourth I don't know. But I certainly feel a whole lot better going into this race than I did coming out of the Holy Bull."

Slow going for Balto Star

The news wasn't as promising from Pletcher on Balto Star, the 2001 Arkansas Derby winner, who worked five furlongs in a slow 1:05 on Wednesday. Displeased with the work, Pletcher said Balto Star will not run in Sunday's Creme Fraiche.

"He was dull when he worked this morning," said Pletcher. "He's just not on his game, so I'm not going to run him in the Creme Fraiche. He came back from the work fine. I really can't put a finger on what's bothering him. I've kind of been scratching my head since his Aqueduct race."

Pletcher shipped Balto Star to Florida after Balto Star finished fifth, beaten 13 lengths, in the Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 19.

While Balto Star will not run in the Creme Fraiche, Free of Love will, said trainer Rick Violette. Free of Love, who finished sixth in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, worked a half-mile in 47.60 seconds here on Tuesday.

Burning Roma may sprint

Burning Roma has joined the list of candidates for the richest race here this weekend, the $200,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Sprint Championship for older horses on Saturday.

Burning Roma, one of the top middle-distance 3-year-olds in North America last year when trained by Tony Dutrow, will be making his first start for his new trainer, Bill Mott. Edgar Prado tentatively is scheduled to ride.

Definite for the Grade 2, seven-furlong Sprint Championship are Hook and Ladder, John Velazquez; Fappie's Notebook, Jorge Chavez; Dream Run, Pat Day; Twilight Road, Rene Douglas; Binthebest, Jon Court; and Dancing Missile, no rider.

Fappie's Notebook, narrow winner over Twilight Road in the Deputy Minister last month for trainer Manny Tortora, breezed three furlongs Wednesday in 36.20 seconds at Calder.

Orseno horses stretch legs

Trainer Joe Orseno's three big guns, Red Bullet, Macho Uno, and Thunder Blitz, galloped on Wednesday morning. Both Red Bullet and Thunder Blitz actually made the work tab, with the clockers catching Red Bullet's final three furlongs in 39.40 seconds and Thunder Blitz's last half-mile in 52 seconds.

"It's good to see all three doing so well and getting ready like they are," said Orseno.

Red Bullet remains on target for the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 30. Macho Uno is nominated for the Creme Fraiche, but Orseno said he's not quite ready.

"He's getting close, but at the moment I have nothing picked out," said Orseno.

Two Item Limit's comeback

Two Item Limit, who has not started since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, made the work tab for the first time since returning to trainer Stephen DiMauro's barn last month, going a half-mile in 50.20 at Calder on Wednesday.

"She had a hard campaign as a 3-year-old, so we just gave her some time off," said DiMauro. "She had been working on the farm before she came to me. If all goes well we'll try to make the [seven-furlong] Distaff at Aqueduct on March 30. There's nothing for her here since I don't want to send her around two turns the first time back. And we'd like to run her at Aqueduct if we can since she's unbeaten over that track."

Chavez to stay on road

Jorge Chavez thought long and hard about returning to New York soon after the March 16 Florida Derby. But Chavez plans to ride in Kentucky for four weeks before finally heading back to Belmont Park after the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

Chavez's agent, Ron Ebanks, said that "the purses and the stakes races are just too good at Keeneland," which begins its 16-day spring meet April 5.

Chavez, long one of the most popular jockeys in New York, will ride at Tampa Bay Downs March 17, at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Racing Festival March 18, then back at Gulfstream until Keeneland begins. After Keeneland, he will ride the first week of the Churchill Downs meet, which begins April 27.

* Jockey Carlos Gonzalez, a regular at Calder late last year, returns to south Florida on Saturday to ride out the remainder of the Gulfstream meet. Gonzalez will ride Groomstick Stock's in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap, according to his agent, Peter Wright.

* Stan Platkin, who worked in the Gulfstream Park publicity office for more than 30 years, died suddenly on Monday. He was 78 years old.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee