11/22/2005 1:00AM

Pletcher nears money record

Defending champion Lion Tamer will be the 120-pound highweight in Saturday's Cigar Mile, the last Grade 1 stakes of the year in New York.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - There is a good chance Todd Pletcher will have already established the single-season mark for earnings by a trainer by the time Saturday's $350,000 Cigar Mile is run at Aqueduct. But if he hasn't, he will have a very strong chance to do it in New York's last Grade 1 stakes of the year.

Pletcher entered this week of racing with purse earnings of $18,831,602, trailing Bobby Frankel's single season record of $19,147,129 by just $315,527. Pletcher has horses in stakes in Kentucky on Thursday and Friday, and will be running eight horses in three stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday.

Four of those eight runners will go in the Cigar Mile, including the race's defending champion, Lion Tamer, who comes off a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last month. Pletcher is also expected to start graded stakes winners Host and Purge as well as the enigmatic Value Plus in the Cigar Mile.

Value Plus, a listed stakes winner, will be making his first start for Richard Haysfield's Never Tell Farm, which purchased Value Plus from Aaron and Marie Jones and will stand him at stud possibly as early as next year. Pletcher said it was unclear whether this will be Value Plus's last race.

Lion Tamer, the 120-pound highweight in Saturday's race, took advantage of a hot pace to win last year's Cigar Mile over Badge of Silver, his main rival again this year. Lion Tamer is winless in five starts this year, but did run well enough to be third in the Vosburgh and Breeders' Cup Sprint. He has won 8 of 20 starts and banked more than $1 million in his career for owner Michael Tabor. John Velazquez will ride.

Speaking of Lion Tamer's 2005 campaign, Pletcher said: "He's run some very good races; they haven't been at the right racetrack or the right distance. We haven't been able to get him in the right spot. That's why we gave him the summer off and pointed for this."

Lion Tamer also missed time this summer because of a wrenched ankle he suffered when running a close fourth in the Lone Star Park Handicap in May.

Host, a Group 1 winner on dirt in Chile, won the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland and was beaten three lengths by Artie Schiller when seventh in the Breeders' Cup Mile, a race in which he was checked hard in midstretch.

In his only North American start on dirt, Host finished third behind Funny Cide and Evening Attire in the 2004 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/8 miles at this track.

"It's a Grade 1 at a perfect distance for him,'' Pletcher said. "He's run two times on dirt. One time was a very impressive win in Chile, the other was a muddy-track third to an in-form Funny Cide and Evening Attire, and those two horses are obviously top-quality horses. Plus, a mile and an eighth isn't his best distance on dirt, especially when he's on the front end, which he was that day.''

Garrett Gomez, who won the Vosburgh, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and two Breeders' Cup races in two trips to New York this fall, has the call on Host.

Purge has been a disappointment since winning the Jim Dandy last year. It appeared as though his racing career in New York was over when he freaked out in the security barn and had to be scratched from an allowance race on opening day at Saratoga. He has run three times in New Jersey since with a blowout allowance win and two thirds in stakes. Pletcher said he has shipped Purge to Aqueduct to school in the paddock once and was going to do it again this week.

Pletcher said riding assignments for Purge and Value Plus were not firmed up.

A field of 11 is likely for the Cigar Mile. Expected to join the Pletcher quartet are Badge of Silver, Gygistar, Imperialism, Mass Media, Scrappy T, Silver Wagon, and Straight Line.

Pletcher to run three in Demoiselle

Pletcher will also be strong in the $200,000 Demoiselle when he sends out the trio of Cinderella's Dream, Love Locket, and Wait a While in the Grade 2 race for juvenile fillies at 1 1/8 miles. As of Tuesday, Better Now and Wonder Lady Anne L were the only other scheduled starters.

Cinderella's Dream won the Maid of the Mist for New York-breds in her last start. Love Locket has won three races in a row, including a pair of two-turn stakes at Delaware Park. Wait a While won the Miss Grillo, which was rained off the turf to the dirt, in her last start.

Pletcher believes all three will like the Demoiselle's two turns and 1 1/8 miles.

Bluegrass Cat vs. Flashy Bull

Pletcher's other stakes runner this weekend at Aqueduct will be Bluegrass Cat, the Nashua winner who will likely be favored in the Grade 2 Remsen at 1 1/8 miles.

One of his chief rivals will be Flashy Bull, a son of Holy Bull, who won his maiden last out in his fifth career start. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin hopes the experience factor will play a role in the outcome of the Remsen.

"We're stepping up from a maiden to a graded stakes race, but with a little luck he could have broken his maiden a couple of months ago,'' McLaughlin said. "Experience won't beat us. The jump in class might be a tester for us. He's a great mover, a nice sound horse who I think has a big future.''

Others pointing to the Remsen are Achilles of Troy, Congo King, Fagan's Legacy, Immersed in Gold, Park Avenue Prince, Parkhimon-broadway and Pegasusbystorm.

Santos to stay in New York this winter

While most high-profile New York jockeys will be heading south in the coming weeks, Jose Santos will not be among them. Santos said Tuesday he plans to ride in New York this winter, making trips to Gulfstream as needed.

Santos said there is too much cheap racing at Gulfstream and he would most likely ride just two or three horses a day. He said he wants to ride at least four or five a day at Aqueduct.

"I need to pick my business up,'' he said. "I have a better chance to build my business up over here than in Florida. If somebody needs me to ride a stakes race I can go down there no problem.''