08/05/2004 12:00AM

Pletcher keeping his options open


Although Pollard's Vision is blind in his right eye, his connections are not blind to opportunity. He is entered in Saturday's $600,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Race Track and Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth, as trainer Todd Pletcher and owner David Moore of Edgewood Farm weigh which race better suits the horse.

Pollard's Vision, winner of the Grade 2 Illinois Derby, is expected to start in the West Virginia Derby, a Grade 3 race at 1 1/8 miles. Against a field with only one other graded winner, Sir Shackleton, Pollard's Vision looms a short-priced favorite.

With earnings of $665,881, his bankroll is more than three times that of his next-richest West Virginia Derby competitor, Michigan-bred Rockem Sockem, who has earned $221,558. Besides his triumph in the Illinois Derby in April, this year Pollard's Vision has run third in the Louisiana Derby, second in the Ohio Derby, and first in the Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware Park on July 18.

That win came when he relaxed off a fast pace in the slop and surged to a two-length victory over Britt's Jules, another West Virginia Derby entrant. Eibar Coa, who rode him to victory in the Illinois Derby, has the mount on Pollard's Vision, a son of speed sire Carson City.

Sir Shackleton, winner of the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs in April, heads the opposition. Following his Derby Trial score, he ran sixth in the Preakness and third in the Grade 2 Dwyer on July 11. In the Dwyer, Sir Shackleton stalked fast fractions and finished evenly, 4 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Medallist at Belmont Park.

Five of Sir Shackleton's six races have been around one turn, with the exception being the Preakness. The West Virginia Derby is a two-turn race. Rafael Bejarano rides for trainer Nick Zito.

With front-runners Avid Skier and Britt's Jules among the many speed horses in field, the West Virginia Derby could develop with a quick pace, a scenario that could benefit the late-running Fantasticat.

A 3-year-old son of Storm Cat, Fantasticat closed from 17 lengths back to take a midstretch lead in the July 17 Round Table at Arlington before flattening out in the final furlong. He finished second, beaten a length by Cryptograph.

That race, the best of his 12-race career, came following the removal of blinkers.

"He's all Storm Cat," said trainer Bobby Barnett. "They have minds of their own."

Saturday's card at Mountaineer, offering more than $1.2 million in purses, includes six other stakes. Post time for the first race is 2 p.m. Eastern. The West Virginia Derby, televised live by ESPN, is set for 5:27.