06/26/2008 11:00PM

Pletcher runs two that might just wake up


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Trainer Todd Pletcher's Arlington Park string has bounce-back candidates for the two open allowance races that highlight a nine-race card here Sunday.

Both Awesome Ashley, who starts in race 1, and Extra Classy, who goes in race 8, exit disappointing performances, but neither horse is in an especially tough spot, and a return to form from either could net a victory.

Awesome Ashley is part of a short field in the opener, a third-level allowance race at six furlongs on Polytrack. The field does not appear strong for the class level, and Awesome Ashley is dropping in class from the Arlington Matron, a Grade 3 stakes here May 26. Awesome Ashley threw a clunker that day, losing by 24 lengths, but this is nothing new. She suffered three straight losses by double-digit lengths in her last two 2007 starts and her first race this year, but bounced back to dead heat for first in a second-level Keeneland allowance race in April.

A greater concern might be the race's distance, which seems to be on the short side for Awesome Ashley. Twin Buttes and Unreal Rocket should ensure a fair pace, but a more established sprinter like Acadia Breeze or Bewitching Miss could beat Awesome Ashley to the punch.

Extra Classy, the Pletcher horse in race 8, may prove tougher. She's one of nine horses in a second-level Polytrack allowance at 5 1/2 furlongs, and can do much better than her fifth-place finish here June 6. That race was Extra Classy's first start in 14 months, and she got off to a terrible start from post 1, never recovering and checking in fifth. A better break could put Extra Classy in a good spot just behind likely pace-setter Sophia's Reward, and she looks quick enough to win at a short-sprint trip.

Sophia's Reward also has some appeal, though she hasn't raced since February 2007. The mare has plenty of speed - or did, when last seen - and her combined turf and dirt form suggests she will be fine in her Polytrack debut for new trainer Ronny Werner.

o Pletcher said this week that Meal Penalty, who won an overnight Polytrack stakes before capturing he Arlington Classic here in his most recent race, was not a certain starter in the upcoming American Derby, the local prep for the Grade 1 Secretariat. Meal Penalty, based at Arlington, still might wind up in the grass race here, but also is being considered for the Dwyer Stakes at Belmont, Pletcher said.