11/01/2002 12:00AM

Pletcher has Tempted favorite again


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Last year, Todd Pletcher won the Grade 3 Tempted with the favorite, Smok'n Frolic. This year Pletcher again has the Tempted favorite, Chimichurri.

Chimichurri is among eight 2-year-old fillies entered in the $100,000-added Tempted, a mile dirt race Sunday at Aqueduct.

Chimichurri, a daughter of hot freshman sire Elusive Quality, has won 2 of 4 starts, scoring easy victories in a maiden at Saratoga and the Jersey Jumper Stakes at The Meadowlands.

Racing as the favorite in her last start in the Grade 2 Astarita on Oct. 13, Chimichurri finished third in the 6 1/2-furlong race, which was run over a sloppy track. Chimichurri chased the pace in between horses and was beaten a length by the winner and pacesetter, Humorous Lady.

"I think it was the combination of the post [2] and the track, which was not in her favor," Pletcher said. "She has always encouraged us that she can stretch out, even though she is built like a sprinter. She has finished well in her races and has galloped out strongly."

Chimichurri will be ridden by John Velazquez, who was aboard Smok'n Frolic in last year's Tempted. Chimichurri drew post 5.

Xtra Heart, who trains at Aqueduct, looks like she has the best chance of beating the favorite. Xtra Heart, a daughter of Favorite Trick, won back-to-back mile races at Belmont Park last month at double-digit odds.

Trained by Jennifer Pedersen, Xtra Heart won a maiden race by three-quarters of a length in her third start. She returned two weeks later to win a first-level allowance race by 3 1/2 lengths, defeating the 1-10 favorite, Roar Emotion, who finished second.

"I think stretching her out was the difference," Pedersen said. "She is improving and is still very green. If you watch her races, she runs with her ears pricked as she nears the finish. She doesn't have a clue as to what she is doing."

Jose Santos replaces Norberto Arroyo Jr. aboard Xtra Heart, who drew post 3.

Reign of Tara, a recent maiden winner in the slop, will run with Lasix for the first time. Air Marshall, third behind Xtra Heart in her last start, also gets Lasix for the first time.

Snake Mountain clicks for new connections

Snake Mountain wasn't a good fit for trainer Aidan O'Brien's powerful Ballydoyle operation in Ireland. But it looks like Snake Mountain has found a niche for himself in New York. Snake Mountain, 2 for 2 at Aqueduct, seeks his first stakes win in Tuesday's $100,000-added Stuyvesant Handicap, a Grade 3.

The regally bred Snake Mountain, who is trained by Jimmy Jerkens, was originally bought for $950,000 as a yearling in 1999 at auction in Europe. A son of A.P. Indy, out of a Mr. Prospector mare, Snake Mountain failed to win his first four starts on the grass for O'Brien. In October 2001, O'Brien entered him in the Tattersalls sale, where the horse was bought by his current connections for $30,000.

Dr. Doug Koch, whose Berkshire Stud heads the partnership that owns Snake Mountain, said Snake Mountain was a ridgling when he was bought.

"His testicle was sitting in the canal and we decided to geld him," Koch said. "If we didn't geld him, he probably wouldn't be the horse he is now. Another big plus has been switching him to the dirt."

Snake Mountain, 5 for 8 this year, has been assigned 114 pounds for the 1 1/8-mile Stuyvesant. The 120-pound highweight and likely favorite is Burning Roma, who won the Meadowlands Cup and beat Volponi, who came back to win the Breeders' Cup Classic last weekend.

Others pointing to the Stuyvesant are Cat's at Home and Windsor Castle.

Several late-year options for Forbidden Apple

Trainer Christophe Clement said there are some options left this year for Forbidden Apple, who was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

The races under consideration are the $500,000 Citation at Hollywood Park on Nov. 30, and the Hong Kong Mile and Hong Kong Cup, both run at Sha Tin on Dec. 15. Forbidden Apple secured invitations to both of the races by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Last year, Forbidden Apple was fourth in the Hong Kong Mile. The year before, he was fourth in the 1 1/4-mile Hong Kong Cup.

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