06/23/2004 11:00PM

Pletcher poses two threats


Trainer Todd Pletcher brings two horses into Saturday's seven-furlong, $100,000 Mike Lee Stakes, the first leg of a three-race series for New York-bred horses. The pair figure to be two of the lowest-priced horses in the 12-horse field.

Choosing between the two means betting on potential or sticking to the tried-and-true.

The 3-year-old , a recent maiden winner, represents potential. He ran an eye-popping six furlongs in 1:08.48 in his June 6 debut to win by 17 1/2 lengths and earn a 98 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest in the field.

There's also the veteran , a winner of 4 of 7 lifetime starts, including three stakes restricted to New York-breds. For the most part, when West Virginia has been short odds, he has come through for his backers.

Pletcher said Thursday morning that he has yet to form an opinion as to which of the two horses is more talented. He cited West Virginia's consistency, but admitted that Friendly Island's debut - the horse was 9-2 in an 11-horse field, far higher than the average odds for a Pletcher firster in a New York-bred race - was astonishing.

"We thought the horse showed a lot of ability in the mornings," Pletcher said. "But we didn't expect him to win in 1:08 and two and do it by 17 1/2 lengths."

While Friendly Island will be stretching out to seven furlongs in the Mike Lee, West Virginia will be turning back. West Virginia's last race at less than a mile came on Nov. 9, when he won the six-furlong New York Stallion Stakes Great White Way Stakes as a 2-year-old.

The Mike Lee is loaded with speed. None of the horses has shown an ability to come from off the pace, with the exception of Swinging Ghost, whose last win, a first-level restricted allowance race, came from just off a moderate pace in a 7 1/2-furlong race at Belmont.

Trainer Bob Baffert has shipped in Multiplication from California for the race, and he could prove formidable. Purchased at a Florida 2-year-old sale for $300,000, Multiplication won an open maiden race on May 22 at Hollywood by three lengths.

The Mike Lee is the first leg of the OTBs' Big Apple Triple. The second leg, the 1 1/16-mile New York Derby, will be run on July 17 at Finger Lakes. The third leg, the 1 1/8-mile Albany Stakes, will be run on Aug. 25 at Saratoga. Any horse who wins all three will receive a $250,000 bonus.