05/07/2008 11:00PM

Pletcher barn dangerous times two in feature


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - When Todd Pletcher moved a string into Arlington Park for the first time last summer, the first thought was that Pletcher might be only a spotty participant, a big-time trainer with a full barn who might not run all that much.

That thought was wrong.

Pletcher-trained horses made 133 starts at the 2007 Arlington meet, and the stable had plenty of success, winning 36 races and finishing third or better with 73 horses. For 2008, Pletcher is back with another barn full of horses, and in the first week of racing, has shown the same sort of active participation. Pletcher started two horses in the Timeless Native Stakes last Saturday, and entered two more in the $50,000 Shecky Greene, the featured third race on Saturday's 11-race card.

Meal Penalty, with a recent Keeneland win and leading rider Rene Douglas named, will command more attention than Pletcher's other horse, Processor's Turf, who as of Thursday morning still was in Kentucky at Churchill Downs, where he finished eighth of nine on a wet grass course on May 2 in the American Turf Stakes. Meal Penalty wintered at Hollywood Park and ran in four stakes races at Hollywood and Santa Anita, but showed his best form on April 12, winning a second-level Keeneland allowance race by four lengths.

"He's a big, tall, straightforward horse," said Michael Dilger, who oversaw the Pletcher string in 2007, and is back for another summer.

Meal Penalty turns back from 6 1/2 to six furlongs in the Shecky Greene, which shouldn't be a problem, and turned in a sharp-enough half-mile work here on Sunday.

The six-horse Shecky Greene also includes Georgetown, a Kentucky shipper who won a Keeneland entry-level allowance race in his most recent start, and Young Joe, who set a six-furlong Polytrack record when he won an allowance race in 1:08.40 here just last Saturday.

Also in the race are Tampa Bay Downs maiden-claiming winner Golden Citizen E K, and Denos Keys, who makes his first start outside Illinois-bred competition.

* After producing blazing times in both the morning and afternoon last week (the Polytrack six-furlong record fell twice in three days), Arlington's synthetic surface slowed during morning works Wednesday and Thursday. On Monday, the average five-furlong workout time was 1:01.50, but on Thursday, the five-furlong average was 1:02.86.