11/29/2002 1:00AM

Pletcher mulls Balto Star's agenda


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Graded winner Balto Star, the runner-up in last year's Queens County, is among the nominees for next Saturday's Queens County at Aqueduct, but he might not run.

Balto Star's trainer, Todd Pletcher, said that instead of the $100,000-added Queens County, he might wait for the $150,000 Appleton Handicap on Jan. 4 at Gulfstream Park. The Grade 2 Appleton is a turf race and Balto Star is a winner on both dirt and turf.

Owned and bred by Anstu Stables, Balto Star was a good-looking winner of his last start on Nov. 21 at Aqueduct in a classified allowance race on the main track.

One of the reasons Pletcher might bypass the Grade 3 Queens County with Balto Star is because the race is a bit close to his last start. "I'll have to see how he trains because it's back a little quick," Pletcher said.

Balto Star ran in New York the last two winters, but Pletcher said the 4-year-old gelding might be soaking up the sunshine this winter as a member of Pletcher's Florida division.

"He might be better off down there, where we can take advantage of the dirt and turf and off-the-turf situations," Pletcher said.

Pletcher and his wife, Tracy, had plenty to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, the day their third child was born. The Pletchers, who have two young boys, Payton and Kyle, welcomed a girl to the family. Hannah Pletcher weighed in at 6 pounds and 8 ounces. Mother and daughter are doing fine, Pletcher said.

Request for Parole's return uninspiring

In his first race since finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby, Request for Parole finished fifth as the 3-2 favorite while facing seven rivals in a mile allowance race on Friday.

Making his first start for trainer Stanley Hough, Request for Parole was beaten 17 3/4 lengths by Voodoo, an impressive 11 1/4-length winner. Request for Parole, who was ridden by Jerry Bailey, broke sharply and settled in third behind the early leaders, Voodoo and City Sharpster.

When Bailey called upon Request for Parole with a half-mile remaining, the rider didn't receive a strong response. Request for Parole dropped back steadily during the stretch turn.

Voodoo, under Norberto Arroyo Jr., returned $5.50 and completed the distance in 1:34.95.

Request for Parole was being prepared for the Belmont Stakes when he suffered a fractured cannon bone, which required surgery. Following the horse's recovery, he was turned over to Hough to train.

Groom Development Program graduates 47

The Groom Development Program, co-sponsored by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, recently graduated its first class of 47 students in a ceremony at Aqueduct.

Among the topics covered in the 10-week program, which featured several guest lecturers, were grooming, safety, equipment, and health care. A written and oral test was given to the students on the final day of the program.

Another program is being discussed for next year.

Belmont's main track closes early

Belmont Park's main track was scheduled to close on Sunday for a winter break, but Mother Nature forced an earlier closing on Friday.

According to the track superintendent's office, frigid temperatures resulted in the bottom of the track freezing, particularly in the area of the homestretch, where the grandstand casts a long shadow. With the main track closed, the training track was noticeably busier.

o Before Sunday's opener, a special race for the Amateur Riders Club of America will be held. The non-wagering event, a six-furlong race, drew a field of 10 claimers.