05/05/2006 12:00AM

Oonagh Maccool wins Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Todd Pletcher was being posed for photos with Emirate Airlines hostesses, asked for television interviews, barraged with reporters' and publicists' questions Friday. He did find time to win half of the first eight races on Kentucky Oaks Day.

Pletcher won the first, fourth and fifth races, and it wasn't enough to have Oonagh Maccool score a decisive victory in race 8, the Grade 2, $271,000 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap. He also sent out second-place La Reason, with three entries still left on the card.

Oonagh Macool ran a mile and one-sixteenth in 1:42.96, and ran her record to a perfect 3-3 in dirt races. Breezing along comfortably in fourth position down the backstretch, she got a cue from jockey Rafael Bejarano around the far turn, put away pace-setting Capeside Lady just past the quarter pole, and rolled home to a three and one-quarter length victory. La Reason, making her first start for Pletcher, finished well while no match for the winner, with Gallant Secret third. Second-choice Sweet Symphony never was a factor, finishing seventh of eight.

"I tried to get position, I tried to put her there, but she didn't want to go," said Sweet Symphony's rider, Cornelio Velasquez.

How deep is Pletcher in the distaff division? Besides the first two in the Louisville, he also has Spun Sugar and Fleet Indian, as well as the one widely considered the best Pletcher mare of all, Indian Vale.

But Oonagh Maccool is closing in. Bred in Ireland and campaigned there last year at age 3, Oonagh Maccool came to the U.S. early last fall, her owner-breeder Charles Wacker telling Pletcher that he "had a nice filly that would suit American racing," Pletcher said. Nobody specifically referenced dirt racing, but Oonagh Maccool, Pletcher said, quickly began training with zeal on the main track.

"But I made the mistake of putting her on turf first time out, taking the safe play," Pletcher said.

Oonagh Maccool finished sixth in a minor turf stakes, but the mistake quickly was righted. Oonagh Maccool won by eight in a second-level Gulfstream Park allowance, got into a world of trouble and still won the Grade 2 Rampart Handicap by more than two, and was much the best Friday. Trainers don't like to compare their own horses, but Pletcher had high praise for Oonagh Maccool.

"I'll say this: she's about as good as anything we've had," Pletcher said.

Oonagh Maccool, who paid $5.20 as the favorite, will be pointed to the Fleur De Lis here next month.