05/29/2008 11:00PM

Harlem Rocker a cut above


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Harlem Rocker, perhaps the second-best 3-year-old on the continent behind Big Brown, will prep for the $1 million Queen's Plate in the $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes on Sunday at Woodbine.

Harlem Rocker is unbeaten in three starts for trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the 1998 Queen's Plate with the Trial runner-up Archers Bay.

In his Feb. 14 debut over seven furlongs at Gulfstream, Harlem Rocker regrouped nicely after breaking slowly and came wide from off the pace to win by daylight. Six weeks later, he beat a decent allowance field going a mile, after being geared down in deep stretch.

Most recently, in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct, Harlem Rocker blew by favored J Be K nearing the eighth pole en route to a comfortable victory. He completed a mile in 1:34.50 and was awarded a fat Beyer Speed Figure of 106.

Harlem Rocker's connections bypassed the Grade 1 Preakness, in which he could well have been the second choice, in favor of the Trial and the June 22 Plate.

Assistant trainer Jonathan Thomas is cautiously optimistic regarding Harlem Rocker's ability to handle nine furlongs on Polytrack.

"He's a very laid-back horse, and he's very accommodating for a rider," said Thomas. "I think he's pretty tactical. It's pretty easy to put him anywhere you want, so I don't see the two turns as being an issue."

Thomas said Harlem Rocker has come up to the Trial as well as can be expected.

"He's been training pretty well," said Thomas. "All of his works have gone as planned. He still seems to show a little greenness when he gets to the front, but he's definitely an improving animal."

Eibar Coa retains the mount on Harlem Rocker, a Macho Uno colt owned by Stronach Stable.

Not Bourbon figures to be the pacemaker in his first venture around two turns. He earned Beyer Figures in the mid-90s in his two most recent races, winning the Queenston Stakes and finishing second in the Achievement Stakes.

Not Bourbon has the pedigree of a sprinter, and he worked a slow mile in 1:45 on May 21. Jono Jones rides him for trainer Roger Attfield.

Trainer James Bond entered two Saratoga-based runners, Pewter and the maiden Solitaire. Pewter has been idle since his front-running maiden win over seven furlongs April 12 at Gulfstream, for which he got a Beyer Figure of 95.