03/10/2005 1:00AM

Pletcher pair formidable in Richter Scale


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won three graded-stakes races over the last two weekends, again will hold the upper hand when he sends out defending champion Lion Tamer and his talented stablemate Value Plus in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Richter Scale Handicap.

will be the starting highweight in the Richter Scale, toting 119 pounds, three more than he carried to a three-quarter-length victory against Coach Jimi Lee in last year's edition of the seven-furlong Richter Scale. Value Plus, who runs as a separate betting interest, carries 114 pounds.

Lion Tamer, a son of Will's Way, will be making his first start since he upset Badge of Silver and Pico Central to win the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 27. But Pletcher is not concerned about the layoff.

"He's always run well fresh," said Pletcher. "And seven furlongs is a good distance for him. Obviously, the track is a little concern, since it seems to favor horses racing closer to the lead than he normally does. Hopefully, the pace will be hot enough."

is likely to have a say in that pace. Lightly raced since finishing second in the 2004 Florida Derby, Value Plus was outfinished by Silver Wagon in an allowance on Feb. 6, when Value Plus was coming off a 7 1/2-month layoff.

"If he breaks better than his last start, the pace setup could be a good one for him, since it appears Mister Fotis is the only other speed horse in the field," said Pletcher.

Clock Stopper would also appreciate an honest pace. A stretch-running son of Gilded Time, Clock Stopper ran second in his only start this year. He finished sixth in the 2004 Breeders' Cup Sprint and was graded-stakes placed in four races last season, including the Grade 1 Forego and De Francis Memorial handicaps.

joins Lion Tamer as the only other Grade 1 winner in the field, having captured Saratoga's Hopeful Stakes at 2. Silver Wagon got his first victory since the Hopeful when he defeated Value Plus by 1 3/4 lengths last month.

Mister Fotis, runner-up to Medallist in the Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap, continues to improve for trainer Marty Wolfson and could be dangerous if allowed to relax on the lead.

Sir Shackleton, a two-time Grade 3 winner, returns to stakes company after an impressive allowance victory earlier in the meet. He is perfect in two starts at the distance and could spring a minor upset with a repeat of his last effort.