06/04/2002 11:00PM

Pletcher gets Harlan's Holiday


ELMONT. N.Y. - Harlan's Holiday, whose victories in the Florida Derby and Blue Grass made him the lukewarm favorite in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished seventh, has transferred barns from Ken McPeek to Todd Pletcher.

Harlan's Holiday shipped to New York Wednesday from Churchill Downs on the same plane that brought Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem to Belmont for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

Speaking from Saratoga, where he purchased a home last fall, Jack Wolf, the owner of Harlan's Holiday, said he simply wanted his horses based in New York. Including the multiple stakes winning turf horse Thesaurus, who is entered to run Saturday at Belmont, Wolf has six horses with Pletcher.

"The main reason is because where I'm standing right now," Wolf said. "We bought a place up here in New York and we wanted to get all our horses in this area. Kenny, being based in Churchill doesn't make that easy enough. We've had a couple of horses with Todd and really enjoy dealing with him.

"I want to make this perfectly clear," Wolf added. "It's no reflection on McPeek. I thought McPeek did a very good job with him. I spoke to Kenny about it and he was okay with it."

McPeek, who is at Belmont this week getting Sarava ready for the Belmont Stakes, was very diplomatic about losing Harlan's Holiday, who won 6 of 12 starts for McPeek, including five stakes, and $1.5 million.

"Jack Wolf gave me an opportunity with a nice horse and I thank him for that," McPeek said. "I'm very proud of the job I did with the horse. We've got a good foundation of horses in the barn. Next to dealing with almost losing my wife, losing a horse is secondary."

McPeek was referring to his wife, Sue, who successfully battled cancer two years ago.

Following the Kentucky Derby, Harlan's Holiday ran fourth in the Preakness. He is being freshened for a summer campaign, which Wolf hopes will include such races as the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 4 and the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 24.

"We're going to leave that up to Todd," Wolf said. "The horse is sound; he's put about 20 pounds back on since the Preakness. Our whole game plan was to give him some time off and point for something like the Haskell and or the Travers."