02/12/2008 12:00AM

New stakes draws classy field

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Bill Denver/Equiphotos
Icy Atlantic is half of a strong Todd Pletcher-trained entry in the Shotintheheart Stakes.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - For a restricted race that wasn't even on the original stakes schedule, Thursday's $75,000 Shotintheheart Stakes has brought together a pretty classy field.

Entrants include former Breeders' Cup contenders Icy Atlantic and Silver Tree, recent Grade 2 winner Presious Passion, and a bevy of other stakes winners.

The Shotintheheart for Florida-breds is carded at 1 1/16 miles.

Icy Atlantic is part of a very interesting Todd Pletcher-trained entry along with Ruff and Ready. Icy Atlantic, the onetime rabbit for his Eclipse Award-winning stablemate English Channel, won a pair of graded stakes of his own in 2007, earning him an opportunity to compete in the Breeders' Cup Mile. He banked $367,000 of his more than $850,000 in career earnings last season alone.

Icy Atlantic will attempt to rebound from a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Sunshine Millions Turf if he starts in the Shotintheheart.

Pletcher said that Icy Atlantic's rider that day, John Velazquez, "said he got bumped and knocked off stride a bit near the half-mile pole and never traveled as well afterwards last time."

While Pletcher remained undecided on Monday about Icy Atlantic's starting status, he said Ruff and Ready will definitely run and make his stakes debut in the Shotintheheart. A lightly raced son of More Than Ready, he is coming off a game third-level allowance win over the local course on Jan. 12, his third in as many tries on grass.

"He's made no mistakes on turf, and this will be a natural progression for him," said Pletcher.

Silver Tree has not started since finishing fifth behind Presious Passion as the 2-5 favorite the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger Stakes on Sept. 21 at the Meadowlands. A two-time Grade 2 winner, he returned from a similar layoff to win the Grade 3 Appleton Handicap here last winter and has captured 4 of his 6 starts over the local course.

Presious Passion proved his victory in the Cliff Hanger was no fluke when he upset Calder's Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap at 67-1 in his 2007 finale. A 5-year-old gelding, he was not as fortunate in the Sunshine Millions Turf, finishing ninth following a slow start.

"He was kind of rank that day, had the outside post, and it seemed like they had just put him in the gate and, boom, they sprung the latch," said trainer Mary Hartmann. "It was over for him before it started."

Jet Propulsion should again prove the one to catch. A Grade 3 winner, he led to midstretch before finishing third, a length behind Buffalo Man, in the one-mile Appleton on Jan. 27.