08/20/2007 12:00AM

Plesa thinking Breeders' Cup for Gottcha Gold


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. and Centaur Farms have set their sights on the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile for Gottcha Gold following his second straight upset in a graded stakes at Monmouth Park.

The challenge is mapping out the best way to get the 4-year-old to the Breeders' Cup at Monmouth, where Gottcha Gold is 5-2-0 in 8 starts.

One option: train the horse up to the race following his win at 15-1 Saturday in the Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin Stakes.

Or go for a final prep in the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at 1 1/8 miles at Suffolk Downs on Sept. 22.

"We're going to look at the Mass Cap," Plesa said. "The time frame makes it a race we could use. He also runs well fresh. It's too premature to make a decision right now."

Most importantly for Plesa, Gottcha Gold seems fine following consecutive upsets in the Salvator Mile and the Iselin.

"He came out of the race 110 percent," Plesa said. "I was very pleased with his effort. I thought he ran a great race, and I thought the jockey rode an excellent race. They complemented each other."

Chuck Lopez rode a heady race, letting Barcola commit to the lead from post 8 before sending Gottcha Gold from post 2.

Barcola took several runs at Gottcha Gold before surrendering midway on the final turn. Gottcha Gold sprinted clear and rolled to a 4o1/2-length win over Brother Bobby. Left in his wake were Master Command, the 6-5 favorite who ran fourth, and Papi Chullo, sixth.

"It was better than I could have hoped for," Plesa said. "It shows he is a legitimate horse."

And one maturing with experience.

"He's a 4-year-old out of a Pleasant Tap mare, and they seem to get better with age," said Plesa of Gottcha Gold, who is by Coronado's Quest and out of Gottcha Last.

Zoffinger to make return

Zoffinger launches his comeback Wednesday at Monmouth. The 7-year-old Zoffinger will be making his first start since the 2006 Iselin, where he finished last in the eight-horse field in his third straight Iselin appearance.

Zoffinger, named for the president of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns Monmouth and the Meadowlands Racetrack, will face 11 rivals in the $40,000 second-level allowance feature at one mile and 70 yards. Usual pilot Eddie King Jr. will be aboard.

Zoffinger was among the horses in the John Forbes stable confined to the barn for 70 days last fall during the equine herpesvirus outbreak at Monmouth.

"He was another victim of the quarantine," Forbes said. "He is one of those horses who take a long time to get fit. He's a great-big horse. You have to do a lot of work to get him ready. We don't know what he has left in the tank."

Zoffinger is a drop-back closer compromised by the traditional Monmouth speed bias throughout his career. Owner Dennis Drazin, president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, always preferred running at Monmouth, though.

"Dennis always tries to find a distance here that fits rather than find a track that suited him better," Forbes said.

Zoffinger's finest moment came in the 2005 Iselin, when he launched his closing bid only to have West Virginia drift into his path in the stretch run. He finished second to that rival, triggering an unsuccessful round of appeals that were recently exhausted.

"He should be a graded stakes winner, not eligible to this race, in my opinion," Forbes said.