07/25/2003 11:00PM

Pletcher riding 'Ocean' wave


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It was Ocean Drive's maiden victory on closing day of the 2002 Saratoga meet that enabled trainer Todd Pletcher to win the trainers' title. On Monday, Ocean Drive can cap a sensational first week of the 2003 meet for Pletcher as he seeks to defend his crown.

Ocean Drive, who has won 5 of 6 career starts, figures to go off a strong favorite in the Grade 3, $100,000 Lake George Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf. Although she is the most accomplished horse in the field, Ocean Drive will have to overcome post 12 on the Mellon Turf Course.

"It's not ideal by any means,'' said Pletcher, who by midafternoon Saturday already had five wins for the meet.

Ocean Drive, whose only loss came in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood last November, is 2 for 2 this year. She is coming off a 1 1/4-length victory in the Gaviola Stakes, in which she beat three horses who are in this field. Ocean Drive has yet to win a graded stakes, but she has run in only one, finishing fourth in the Miesque.

"I think she's a graded-stakes caliber filly,'' Pletcher said. "She's been very consistent. The only time she didn't fire her best shot was in California. Hopefully, she'll get a good trip.''

Jerry Bailey, who has won this race four times, has the mount.

Beautiful America had an eventful trip when second to Ocean Drive in the Gaviola. She was hard-held by Jose Santos while racing on the pace. She got shuffled back when forced to steady around the turn, but rallied again in the stretch. It was Beautiful America's first time on turf.

"I always thought she could handle the grass, but she ran better than I thought she would,'' trainer Mike Hernandez said. "They started to come over on her, and she got shuffled back a little bit. I don't think Jose thought she was going to respond for him, but when he took her out she came running again.''

Broadway Lady ran a good third in the Gaviola in her turf debut. Broadway Lady is a half-sister to the Sultan of Saratoga, Fourstardave, who won a race at Saratoga for eight straight years. Cornelio Velasquez has the call from post 6.

Gal O Gal is the 122-pound highweight, based on her victory in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream in February. She won an entry-level allowance race at Belmont in May underneath John Velazquez, who has the call on Monday.