11/14/2007 12:00AM

Pletcher has three ready to run in Clark Handicap

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - The field for the Grade 2 Clark Handicap is beginning to take shape as nominations for the annual fall-meet highlight were released early this week, and to no one's surprise, Todd Pletcher figures to have a say in how the race shakes out.

Pletcher, well on his way to a fourth straight Eclipse Award as top trainer, has as many as three horses ready for the $500,000 Clark - A.P. Arrow, Fairbanks, and Magna Graduate - although he has told Churchill officials he might run only two of them.

The Pletcher contingent is part of what is expected to be a medium-sized field in the 133rd running of the 1 1/8-mile Clark. The other probables include Brass Hat, Diamond Stripes, Going Ballistic, Helsinki, and Purim.

A.P. Arrow most recently was third as the odds-on favorite behind Student Council in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. Fairbanks was second as the odds-on choice to Brass Hat in his last start, the Massachusetts Handicap. And Magna Graduate, a $2.3 million earner who counts the 2005 Clark as one of seven career stakes wins, ran second to Diamond Stripes in the Meadowlands Cup in his last.

The Clark comes the day after its filly-mare counterpart, the $300,000 Falls City Handicap, for which Pletcher has the likely favorite in Panty Raid. Other prospects for the Grade 2 Falls City include Delicate Dynamite, High Heels, Rolling Sea, Stop a Train, and Tessa Blue.

Entries for the Falls City will be drawn Sunday, and for the Clark on Tuesday. Weight assignments for both races will be released Friday.

Three other graded stakes are set for next week: the Grade 3 River City Handicap on the Clark undercard, and the twin 2-year-old stakes, the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club and Grade 2 Golden Rod, on closing day, Nov. 24.

Buzzards Bay out, Istan unlikely

The Clark has lost one of its top prospects in Buzzards Bay, and another major would-be contender, Istan, might run instead in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 24.

Trainer Ron Ellis said he could not make satisfactory travel arrangements for Buzzards Bay and has opted instead to run him Saturday in the Grade 3 All American Handicap at Golden Gate Fields. Ellis said the only available charter flight from California to Louisville is scheduled for Wednesday, which he described as too close for comfort.

"I really prefer to ship four or five days before they run," said Ellis. "It's a shame, because I was really excited about running him there, but I wasn't going to take the worst of it."

Istan was recently sold as a stallion prospect to the Airdrie Stud of former Kentucky Gov. Brereton C. Jones. A runaway winner of the Ack Ack Handicap on Nov. 3, Istan will start just once more, said Jones, adding that he and trainer Bill Mott will decide on a race this weekend.

"He's probably going to work Saturday at Churchill, and then we'll put our heads together," said Jones.

Argentina leads eight in Cardinal

Argentina is the 120-pound highweight in a field of eight fillies and mares entered for the weekend highlight at Churchill Downs, the Gradeo3, $150,000 Cardinal Handicap on Saturday.

Argentina, with Julien Leparoux to ride, drew post 6 in the 1 1/8-mile turf race. From the hedge, the field for the Cardinal: Jade Queen, Mama I'm Home, Nottawasaga, Criminologist, Bicoastal, Argentina, Candy Ball, and Love Handles.

* Get Ready Bertie seemed primed to give the Falls City a try when she won an allowance route here Nov. 7 by six lengths, but the 3-year-old filly has been retired after exiting the race with an ankle chip. Owned by the Klein family of Louisville, Get Ready Bertie ends her career with four wins and earnings of $222,602. The Tiffany Lass Stakes at Fair Grounds in January is her most notable triumph.

* Calvin Borel became just the fifth jockey to win 800 races at Churchill when he guided Fevered Pitch ($14.60) to victory in the first race Wednesday. Pat Day, who rode his last race in July 2005, leads the track's all-time list with 2,481 wins, followed by Don Brumfield (925), Larry Melancon (894), and Jim McKnight (883).

* Two races scheduled for the turf here Wednesday were moved to the main track. The switch, the first of the meet, was was due to heavy rain on Tuesday. Drying conditions were expected for the rest of week.

* Churchill is giving away a jockey poster with the first 5,000 paid admissions Saturday, and jockeys will be available during parts of the day to autograph the posters and other memorabilia.