Updated on 09/17/2011 11:53AM

Meet record within Pletcher's grasp


ELMONT, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher is not only on his way to a second straight Belmont spring-summer meet trainers' title, he's about to have the best Belmont spring-summer meet any trainer has ever had.

When Mr. Reins won Thursday's opener, it gave Pletcher his 31st victory, eclipsing his 30-win total of last year. It also put him five away from Frank "Pancho' Martin's record of 36 set in 1982. According to research done by the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, that figure is the most wins for a trainer at the Belmont spring-summer meet.

After Thursday's card, 13 days remained in the meet, and Pletcher figures to remain active. Pletcher has horses entered in three races Friday and five races Saturday, including Harlan's Holiday in the Grade 1 Suburban Handicap and Finality in the Grade 3 Poker.

"It's one of those situations where things are going well, your horses are running well," Pletcher said. "You want to take advantage of it and keep running, but you still have Saratoga in the back of your mind as being around the corner. Usually, when you're on the heels of a lot of wins at one meet, it slows you down at the next meet.

"The record is something if it happens, it happens,' Pletcher added. "If it doesn't, then that's fine too. We're going to play out what we normally have; the horses that are ready to run will run, the horses that need more time will run at Saratoga.'

Pletcher, who won last year's Saratoga meet, has had an exceptionally strong Belmont meet with his 2-year-olds, winning 7 of 12 juvenile races, including the two stakes.

"Our approach is we don't want take away what's coming easy, and if these horses are getting ready early and we're not having to press them to do it, then there's no reason not to take advantage of that,' Pletcher said.

While Pletcher did not have much success with his 3-year-olds earlier in the year, he certainly has found a quality prospect in Strong Hope, who Sunday will make his stakes debut in the $150,000 Dwyer Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Strong Hope has won his last three races.

"He's trained like a good horse, he's won three in a row, and it's not that easy to reel off a maiden, a-other-than, and two-other than like he did,' Pletcher said. "I certainly feel like he deserves a chance. It's a pretty tough Dwyer, but I think he fits.'

Iron Deputy will await Whitney

Iron Deputy, who upset the Brooklyn Handicap, was conspicuously absent from the entries for Saturday's Grade 1 Suburban.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said he wanted to give the horse more time between starts, and will train Iron Deputy up to the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Aug. 2.

"There were pros and cons either way, but it looks like it would be best to wait,' Jerkens said. "At least he's a horse that shows you can train him up to a race because he's pretty willing in the morning.'

Jerkens said the one drawback to waiting is that "you have to run against the best horse in training.' Jerkens was referring to Medaglia d'Oro, the Oaklawn Park winner, who is also pointing to the Whitney.

Jerkens said that Snake Mountain has resumed light training following a month's vacation after he finished sixth in the Pimlico Special. Snake Mountain, a multiple Grade 3 winner, bled in the Pimlico Special, according to Jerkens. Snake Mountain may race at the Saratoga meet.

Cherokee Lite to Delaware

Cherokee Lite, who has won her last four starts, will try to stretch out around two turns in the $500,000 Delaware Oaks July 19, trainer Nick Zito said. The Delaware Oaks is run at 1 1/16 miles.

Cherokee Lite, a daughter of Cherokee Run, has won four straight races since returning to New York from Florida in late March. Most recently, she won a third-level allowance race by one length over odds-on favorite Danuta.

"She hated Florida, what else is new?' said Zito, referring to a malady that has affected a number of his horses. "The good thing is we got her up here pretty quick, which was good. It really helped her. If she stretches out, then it gives you options.'

Even if Cherokee Lite successfully stretches out, Zito plans to run her back in the Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap at seven furlongs Aug. 24. Though the Ballerina is usually won by an older filly or mare, the race has been won by 3-year-olds Dream Supreme, Pearl City, Lady's Secret, and Blitey.

Zito said that Holiday Lady, who was eased in a second-level turf allowance race Sunday, was not seriously hurt and may still make the Coaching Club American Oaks July 19.

"She stepped in a hole,' Zito said. "I think she got scared and Eibar [Coa] got scared. But we dodged a bullet. It's a longshot to run in there, but it's still a possibility.'

Meanwhile, Zito reported that all is well with Bird Town, the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn winner, who remains on target for the Test Stakes July 26 at Saratoga.

* Peace Rules, the Blue Grass and Louisiana Derby winner, drilled four furlongs Thursday morning in 45.66 seconds over Belmont's main track. It was the fastest of 24 moves at the distance. Peace Rules is being pointed to the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Aug. 3.