06/11/2003 11:00PM

Pletcher stakes platoon set


ELMONT, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher, who appears well on his way to his third Belmont spring meet trainers title, could be set for a big stakes weekend at Belmont.

In addition to sending out Harlan's Holiday in the $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap and Lismore Knight in the $100,000 Hill Prince Saturday, Pletcher will send out the favored Ocean Drive in Sunday's $100,000 Sands Point for 3-year-old fillies on turf.

Ocean Drive, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Traitor, is 4 for 5 on turf with three ungraded stakes victories. Her only loss came in last year's Grade 3 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park where she finished fourth as the 3-5 favorite.

"The turf may have been a little too firm for her liking,'' said Pletcher, who at 17 for 56 at this meet, holds a seven-win lead over trainers Allen Jerkens and James Bond.

In her only start this year, Ocean Drive went gate to wire to win the Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland over yielding turf.

"She was on the lead all the way, which is not necessarily the best way to win a race at Keeneland,'' Pletcher said. "Assuming there's an honest pace she should be able to lay just off it.''

Jerry Bailey will ride Ocean Drive on Sunday in a field that is expected to include A Queen's Smile, Commander's Lady, Film Maker, Fortuitous, Gal O Gal, Impolite, One and Twenty, Snowdrops, and Positively Wild.

Velazquez: Brooklyn a hard choice

Though he went halfway around the world during war time to ride Harlan's Holiday in the $6 million Dubai World Cup, jockey John Velazquez said it was still a difficult decision to choose Harlan's Holiday over Saarland in Saturday's Brooklyn Handicap.

Velazquez rode Harlan's Holiday to victory in an allowance race and then the Donn Handicap before traveling to Dubai where Harlan's Holiday finished second to Moon Ballad in the Dubai World Cup. He had ridden Saarland in 11 of his last 12 starts, including a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap.

"They're two good horses with similar styles, though Saarland comes from a little further behind," Velazquez said. "I think the extra distances such as a mile and a quarter are going to help him.''

Though Harlan's Holiday didn't win the Dubai World Cup, Velazquez still felt he ran a strong race.

"I thought he ran a great race and just faced a monster that day,'' Velazquez said.

Edgar Prado picked up the mount on Saarland for trainer Shug McGaughey.

Frankel a longshot in Brooklyn

Trainer Bobby Frankel has the Oaklawn Park Handicap winner (Medaglia d'Oro) and the Santa Anita Handicap winner (Milwaukee Brew) in his Belmont barn, but he will have to go deep down his bench to find a horse to represent him in Saturday's Brooklyn Handicap.

El Gran Papa, who is more accomplished on turf than on dirt, figures to be the longest price on the board in the Grade 2 Brooklyn, which includes Grade 1 winners Volponi, Harlan's Holiday, and Evening Attire. El Gran Papa, who won the 2001 Dallas Turf Cup, has recorded his last three victories on dirt, all in allowance company.

"The way he's running he's a little better on the dirt right now,'' Frankel said. "I probably won't run if it's an off track. The one bad race he ran last year was on an off track.''

Frankel said he chose to run Aldebaran, the Metropolitan Handicap winner, in Saturday's Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs because "that might be an easier race than this race.''

Frankel said Medaglia d'Oro, who injured a foot in a stall accident after winning the Oaklawn Park Handicap, will be pointed to the Whitney Handicap Aug. 2 at Saratoga. Milwaukee Brew, who got very sick with a virus after winning the Santa Anita Handicap, is training toward a start in the Hollywood Gold Cup July 13.

Vogler SHOWdown champ, again

Brian Vogler, of Syracuse, N.Y., won his second New York Racing Association SHOWdown contest Thursday. Vogler took home the grand prize of $15,684 when Ground Storm finished last of four in the fifth race.

SHOWdown, an online contest, requires players to pick a horse to finish first, second, or third each day of the meet until one handicapper is left. Vogler, 31, was one of three handicappers left going into Thursday's card and selected Oneheckofaruckus, who won the opener. His two rivals chose Ground Storm.

Vogler, who is part of a four-member group that bought 40 entries at $10 a pop, also won $12,396 in the 2002 Aqueduct fall SHOWdown contest.

* Jockeys Shaun Bridgmohan and Javier Castellano appear set to make agent changes. Beginning next Wednesday, Bridgmohan will be represented by Mike Kelly, who formerly represented Robbie Davis and most recently Heberto Castillo. Bridgmohan had been represented by Tony Micallef. No word on whom Castillo has hired.

Castellano said Thursday he and Steve Adika will part ways, though Adika said nothing is official and Castellano had not retained a replacement.