10/14/2003 11:00PM

No secret plan for Balto Star - he will be out in front, looking for upset


While the objectives of some Breeders' Cup hopefuls are not finalized, there is no doubt where Balto Star will be at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. The four-time stakes winner will set the pace in the $2 million Turf, a strategy trainer Todd Pletcher hopes will lead to an upset.

Pletcher on Wednesday said that Balto Star was pre-entered for the Turf, a race that will mark the 5-year-old's first start in California.

Balto Star is expected to face Deeliteful Irving, High Chaparral, Johar, Sulamani, The Tin Man, and Toccet.

The participation of Falbrav is less certain. Trainer Luca Cumani said that Falbrav was pre-entered for the Classic and Turf and that a decision on which race will be chosen will be made closer to the entry deadline on Wednesday.

Balto Star has a clearly defined role in the Turf but could face early pressure from The Tin Man and Toccet.

"We need a couple of things to happen," Pletcher said. "He doesn't have to be on the lead, but I think he'll be there by default. We need the pace to be kind."

Owned by Anstu Stable, Balto Star has raced close to the front throughout his career.

In 2001, the style worked with victories in the Spiral Stakes and Arkansas Derby, but led to a 14th-place finish behind Monarchos in the Kentucky Derby.

Switched to turf later that year, Balto Star finished 12th in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Belmont Park after pressing the early pace. In the past 18 months, Balto Star's best turf races have come at 1 3/8 and 1 1/2 miles.

He ran both long and short in 2002, finishing second in the Man o' War Stakes over 1 3/8 miles but seventh in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.

This year, Balto Star has raced on turf and dirt. He beat Mineshaft in the Whirlaway Handicap on dirt at Fair Grounds in February, but lost four subsequent starts on the main track.

Switched to turf in the summer, Balto Star won the Grade 1 United Nations Handicap over 1 3/8 miles at Monmouth Park on July 5, finished 11th in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga, then finished fourth in the Man o' War and third in the Turf Classic at Belmont.

The 3 1/2-length loss to Sulamani in the Turf Classic on Sept. 27 did not discourage Pletcher, who said Balto Star could have quit in early stretch.

"I think he ran a good race, and he stayed on well after he got some pressure at the five-eighths pole," Pletcher said. "He ran pretty well in the Man o' War, but it was a little softer than he would have liked."

At the least, Pletcher is confident that the Santa Anita turf course will help Balto Star.

"He'll appreciate the firm ground," Pletcher said. "He's a horse that on any given day is capable of running a big race."