01/16/2009 12:00AM

Pletcher forced to alter Harlem Rocker plans


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - After suffering the frustration of losing an apparent Grade 1 win to a stewards' decision in the Cigar Mile last fall, trainer Todd Pletcher was eager to get Harlem Rocker back to action later this month in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. But Pletcher and owner Frank Stronach must exercise further patience now, as Harlem Rocker's scheduled return has been postponed.

"He came down with a temperature on us Tuesday, and he's just not going to make it for the Donn," said Pletcher. "He's already missed a few days' training. We haven't missed a work yet, but with a race of this magnitude you just can't have any hiccups."

The Donn will be decided at 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 31. Pletcher said he will now point Harlem Rocker for the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap at a mile on March 14.

Harlem Rocker, a homebred son of Macho Uno, launched his career here a year ago winning a maiden special weight and first-level allowance race. He also won the Grade 3 Withers at a mile and the restricted Prince of Wales at Fort Erie going 1 3/16 miles at 3. A wide-running fourth in the Travers, Harlem Rocker rallied from far back to apparently outlast Tale of Ekati by a nose in the Cigar Mile, only to lose the victory for drifting in and forcing Tale of Ekati to check briefly near the eighth pole.

"I'm really disappointed we won't get a chance to run in the Donn," said Pletcher. "I was really looking forward to it. Although he might be perceived as a better miler, I don't think the distance would have been a problem for him."

Alma d'Oro promising for Dutrow

Can Kentucky Derby lightning strike two years in a row for trainer Rick Dutrow with a colt not even on the radar screen when the winter began?

Last season it was Big Brown who first gained national attention dominating a first-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park before going on to win both the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. On Thursday, Dutrow added an intriguing prospect to the 2009 Derby picture, Alma d'Oro, who drubbed a field of maiden special weight rivals going a mile under Edgar Prado in his first start since joining Dutrow's stable late last fall.

Alma d'Oro, a son of Medaglia d'Oro, is owned by Mary Ellen and Robert Bourque, who transferred the colt to Dutrow shortly after his fourth-place finish in his only previous start, on Nov. 22 at Churchill Downs. Alma d'Oro, heavily backed for his 3-year-old debut, prompted the early pace of the favored No Detour, readily put that rival away after a half-mile, then easily turned back a try from the well-regarded Dubinsky to win off by himself.

"I thought that was pretty good," Dutrow understated after watching the replay of the race with his assistant Michelle Nevin. "He did everything you'd want to see from a young horse. He broke good, settled in stalking position, and every time Edgar asked him he was right there. And he did it despite stumbling a little at the break and blowing a front shoe somewhere during the race."

Dutrow said he would probably bring Alma d'Oro back in a first-level allowance race, possibly at 1 1/8 miles.

Rematch of sorts in Sweetest Chant

Sugar Mom and C Karma, seventh and eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, will renew acquaintances in a slightly softer spot, Sunday's $100,000 Sweetest Chant Stakes at a mile on the grass.

Sugar Mom, a former claimer, earned her way into the Breeders' Cup off three straight main-track wins, including Turfway Park's Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. C Karma captured Woodbine's Grade 3 Natalma over a soft course as a prelude to her pace-pressing effort in the Breeders' Cup. She subsequently returned to the main track to win Fair Ground's 5 1/2-furlong Pontalba Stakes.

A pair of Calder based stakes winners, Oilgonewile and Exe are among the other key contenders in a field, which includes Ameribelle, Hopeful Image, Weekend Strike, Saar Treaty, Just Livin a Dream, Banker's Choice and Sweetsaintomine.

* Ken McPeek solidified his lead atop the trainer standings when he sent out Ling Ling Qi to win Friday's $46,000 allowance feature. Ling Ling Qi, who was briefly on the Derby trail after winning a first-level allowance race here last winter, rallied under jockey Kent Desormeaux to catch the 4-5 favorite, Fidelio. The win was the seventh through the first 10 days of the meet for McPeek.