03/11/2002 1:00AM

Invisible Ink no lock off hiatus


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - His former cronies are done, at least the more celebrated ones. Point Given, Monarchos, and A P Valentine, all of whom at one point outdid Invisible Ink during the Triple Crown last year, have gone to the breeding shed, leaving Invisible Ink as one of the few luminaries still remaining from the class of 2001.

On Wednesday, Invisible Ink will make his first start since finishing fifth in last year's Belmont Stakes, facing 11 other older horses in a seven-furlong allowance at Gulfstream Park. The race is not meant to showcase Invisible Ink's impressive past, but rather as an initial step into the future.

"We need a place to start back," said trainer Todd Pletcher.

The $40,000 race is governed by restrictions of four-other-than or $80,000 claiming, and, as might be expected at this time of year, drew some fairly capable middle-distance types.

Invisible Ink, owned by Peachtree Stable, quickly established himself last year as a colt who prefers a distance of ground, which has Pletcher cautioning anyone who might want to plunge on the colt Wednesday.

"He's not really a seven-furlong horse," he said. "He really gets better with a few under his belt."

Invisible Ink, by Thunder Gulch, came to hand here last year, winning back-to-back allowance races before finishing third in the Florida Derby and fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes. He then finished second at 55-1 behind Monarchos in the 127th Kentucky Derby, then ran fifth in the June 9 Belmont Stakes in his final start of the year.

Invisible Ink underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery following the Belmont and was given a requisite amount of time off. He resumed training early this year and has had six solid breezes since early February.

Assuming Invisible Ink will not be able to get up at seven furlongs, the winner of the Wednesday feature could be Fantastic Finish, a hard-trying sprinter trained by Elliott Walden. From his last 11 starts, Fantastic Finish, a 6-year-old gelding, has finished worse than third only twice, and a sharp runner-up finish in his last start Feb. 9 should have him primed for a top effort Wednesday.

Other logical contenders include There's Zealous, Proper Man, He's a Knockout, and Thrillin Discovery.

Proper Man, trained by Bill Mott, also will make his second start since a layoff, having finished a disappointing fifth behind Mongoose and the since-retired Monarchos in a Jan. 19 allowance route.

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