12/15/2006 1:00AM

Pletcher to begin ban


Trainer Todd Pletcher will begin serving a 45-day suspension on Monday for a medication positive incurred in the summer of 2004, but he will take his lawsuit against the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to the federal level in an effort to clear his name.

Beginning Monday, Pletcher will be denied access to any racetrack or training center owned by a racetrack - such as Palm Meadows in south Florida - through Jan. 31. Pletcher said he has transferred his New York-based horses to Seth Benzel, his Florida-based horses to Anthony Sciametta Jr., and his Southern California horses to Michael McCarthy.

Pletcher was suspended and fined $3,000 after his horse Tales of Glory tested positive for the banned substance mepivacaine following his victory in the third race at Saratoga on Aug. 14, 2004.

Pletcher's latest appeal of the penalties was denied by an appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court on Dec. 7. His last option is to take it to the federal level, which Pletcher said he intends to do.

Pletcher said he doesn't believe the penalties he incurred were warranted "based on the merits of 1.6 nanograms.

"I think there have been some other similar positive tests that were dismissed before they ever got heard. Because of that I don't think we've been treated fairly. Hopefully, when it's all said and done with, our name will be cleared."

Pletcher said he agreed to serve the days now because if he loses his final appeal it would mean he would most likely have to take them during the spring or summer "a time of year I don't really want to take any," he said.

Pletcher, 39, has won the last two Eclipse Awards as the nation's leading trainer. He is favored to win a third Eclipse this year after setting single-year records for purse-money earned ($27.6 million) and graded stakes races won (55).