11/26/2001 12:00AM

Pletcher has three reasons to be all smiles


JAMAICA, N.Y. - There was nothing in doubt. Left Bank, the favorite in the $350,000 Cigar Mile, was always the premier horse. In Saturday's holiday weekend feature at Aqueduct, he gave the impression that his 5-year-old season just ahead may be his best.

Facing a field of proven horses and giving weight to all, Left Bank entered the battle early. He dueled with Affirmed Success for a half-mile in 45.72 seconds. Affirmed Success was through. Left Bank was just getting started. He powered through the stretch to win by more than three lengths, the mile in 1:33.35. It was the fastest Cigar since Quiet American won in 1990 in a lively 1:32.80.

"He began to get good last summer at Saratoga," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He ran some good races last year at 3, but not consistently. He was always on the verge of breaking through when he got to Saratoga last August and he hasn't run a bad race since. He ran well in the Breeders' Cup Sprint but six furlongs was a little too short for him."

Left Bank, by French Deputy, will race again next season, leaving soon for Florida where his next goal is expected to be the nine-furlong Donn Handicap in early February. He has learned to travel well and is also being considered for a rich mile race in Dubai on Dubai Cup weekend.

Left Bank races for Michael Tabor, who bought him at the Calder sales for 2-year-olds in Miami for $600,000. Left Bank has earned $775,000 and can be expected to add to that substantially next season.

Pletcher, whose public stable has earned some $7 million in purses this year, had a big day. He also saddled Smok'n Frolic (by Smoke Glacken) to win the $200,000 Demoiselle Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. He also trains Nokoma, who was beaten only a neck in the $200,000 Remsen Stakes for 2-year-olds.

Smok'n Frolic, owned by Dogwood Stable, gained national attention by winning the Tempted Stakes at a mile at Belmont Park last month. She didn't participate in the Breeders' Cup, but gained many admirers last weekend with her strong performance in the Demoiselle.

John Velazquez, who also enjoyed a spectacular afternoon, sent Smok'n Frolic to the front and kept her there. She won by more than four lengths, easily the best. Her record for the season is four victories and two seconds in eight starts.

"She has very fluid action. She has the potential of being an Oaks filly," Pletcher said. "She'll go to Florida for a nice long holiday and we'll go to Kentucky in the spring. Some people think that the Smoke Glackens will not go a distance, but I feel strongly that this filly will be able to stay."

The Remsen was essentially a two-horse race. Both the victorious Saarland and Nokoma came from the off the pace. Saarland caught the eye with his surge through the stretch, his long stride eating up the ground in impressive fashion. An Unbridled colt, Saarland has outstanding breeding. He is out of Versailles Treaty, who won the 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes at Saratoga and was second to outstanding fillies in consecutive runnings of the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Shug McGaughey, who trains Saarland, is understandably pleased with his performance. He will take him to Gulfstream Park to prepare for the Florida Derby and next spring's Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. "He's grown quite a bit in recent months," McGaughey said. "I'd like to see him start to fill out. He has the ability and the pedigree to be any kind of horse. Hopefully, he'll acquire the maturity with additional seasoning."

Pletcher was almost as pleased as McGaughey, noting that Nokoma did everything but win. Nokoma was making only his third start and his first stakes appearance in the Remsen. Pletcher feels he has the potential to be a top classic prospect.