09/25/2002 12:00AM

Harlan's Holiday wants it dry


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Todd Pletcher probably will spend a fair amount of time watching the Weather Channel the next couple of days.

Pletcher has entered Pennsylvania Derby winner Harlan's Holiday in Friday night's $350,000 Pegasus Handicap, but likely will scratch if the track is sloppy. Friday's forecast calls for heavy rain.

Pletcher also planned to cross-enter Harlan's Holiday in Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

"I think I would feel more comfortable with running on an off track [at Belmont]," said Pletcher, who indicated if he didn't run in either spot, next Friday's $400,000 Meadowlands Cup is a possible back-up plan.

If he starts in the Grade 2 Pegasus, Harlan's Holiday, owned by Starlight Stable, will be a heavy favorite over six other 3-year-olds.

Pletcher is using the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus as a means to get to the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Arlington Park on Oct. 26. He said he prefers the Pegasus to the Gold Cup because it looks like the easier spot.

"We're trying to get to the Breeders' Cup in the best shape we can," Pletcher said.

In his first start for Pletcher in the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 2, Harlan's Holiday was closer to the lead than he had been in his other races this year. The colt, who was making his first start since finishing fourth in the Preakness, pressed pacesetter Wiseman's Ferry before drawing off in the stretch for a 4 1/2-length win. The second-place finisher, Essence of Dubai, won last weekend's Super Derby.

"He's very diversified in terms of his racing style," Pletcher said. "He can sit a nice trip, and if the race is completely paceless, he can be on the lead."

John Velazquez rides Harlan's Holiday, the 122-pound highweight, from post 7. This Guns for Hire, Regal Sanction, Smoked Em, and Excited have all shown early speed.

This Guns for Hire, trained by John Terranova, makes his stakes debut after winning a maiden race and an allowance race at Saratoga.

"It will be a good little test," Terranova said. "He'll be under a lot of different circumstances with shipping and the lights."

Richard Migliore rides This Guns for Hire, who drew 2.

An off track won't bother Trump Marina, a 9 1/2-length winner of the Paterson Stakes in the slop at The Meadowlands on Sept. 2.

"He's showed us a lot of talent," Trump Marina's trainer, Ben Perkins Jr., said. "Hopefully, he's mature enough to put races back to back."

New York-bred No Parole completes the field.

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