08/09/2001 11:00PM

Irving's Baby dominant on dirt


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Off to an uncharacteristically slow start at Saratoga, trainer Todd Pletcher hopes Friday signaled a turnaround for his barn.

Pletcher, who came into the day 2 for 23 at the meet, entered Irving's Baby in Friday's Glens Falls Handicap planning to run on turf but preferring to run on dirt. Pletcher got his wish when heavy rains Thursday night and Friday morning forced the Glens Falls to be moved to a muddy main track.

The race scratched down to four from an initial field of 10 and Irving's Baby dominated her three opponents, winning the $106,700 Glens Falls by 6 3/4 lengths. New Assembly, owned by the Queen of England, finished second, 7 1/2 lengths ahead of Caveat's Shot. Polly Jo finished last.

With the surface change, the Glens Falls lost its Grade 3 status pending a review by the Graded Stakes Committee. Also, due to the surface change Irving's Baby carried highweight of 126 pounds, because she was the most accomplished dirt filly in the field.

As she did in winning the Grade 3 Delaware Handicap, Irving's Baby won the Glens Falls on the front end. She dueled for a mile with Polly Jo before putting her away at the three-eighths pole. With jockey Jerry Bailey simply waving his whip at her, Irving's Baby bounded home a clear winner as the 3-5 favorite.

Irving's Baby covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:07.56 and returned $3.20 to win.

"We preferred it came off obviously, but to be honest with you I didn't realize she was weighted at 126," said Pletcher, whose filly would have carried 112 on turf. "I can't remember a horse in a handicap carrying 126 in New York in a while. It's a lot of weight going a mile and a quarter. . . . But we felt like it was too good of a spot to pass up."

Pletcher, who was the leading trainer here in 1998 with 20 wins, hopes Friday's win is the start of something big.

"We've kind of zigged when we should have zagged a few times and we ran a few horses that ran okay that just didn't win," Pletcher said. "Next thing you know you're off to a little bit of a slow start. Starting with this filly today and Trippi [on Saturday] and some other live ones coming up . . . hopefully, we have some things to look forward to."