05/25/2007 12:00AM

Pletcher string fitting in just fine


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Here's a shocker - Todd Pletcher isn't at Arlington Park just for the fun of it. No, Pletcher is stabled here for the first time to do what he does everywhere - win races.

And through last week, Pletcher's first-ever Chicago string was getting along just fine. First off - and Arlington racing officials who allotted Pletcher an entire barn have to be pleased with this - Pletcher is starting his stock with regularity. Through Sunday, he had run 13 horses at the meet, and won with five of them, good for a three-way second-place tie behind Wayne Catalano (seven wins) in the trainer standings.

Pletcher, reached by phone this week, said he has about the same overall number of horses now as this time last year. The Arlington string essentially replaces the barn Pletcher operated last summer at Delaware Park, where he won races at a 31 percent clip, going 23 for 74 at the meet. Asked how he chose the stock to fit the Arlington program, Pletcher let fly a barb of dry wit: "Roughly, I just put a roster of horses in front of me, closed my eyes, and started pointing."

In actuality, Arlington's installation of Polytrack had much to do with Pletcher's decision to stable here this summer. Plus, Pletcher has a seemingly endless stream of young horses fully capable of winning a maiden race and an allowance condition or two given the right kind of company.

"Really, I tried to find horses that might like the synthetic surface, and would fit from a class perspective," Pletcher said. "Maidens and horses with preliminary allowance conditions, maybe with a little turf in their pedigree, maybe they trained at Keeneland and liked it. It's still kind of a guessing game for me."

Pletcher has guessed well, and the fact he has a regular presence here could mean increased participation in Arlington stakes. Pletcher was to have run Throng in Saturday's Hanshin Cup, and he's odds-on to be represented in Arlington's series of 3-year-old turf stakes. One candidate is Pleasant Strike, entered in a turf allowance race Saturday; another is Distorted Reality, who won well over the Keeneland course, and turned in a creditable performance in the Jefferson Cup at Churchill.

The Pletcher barn, overseen by Michael Dilger, also has an entrant in Sunday's featured ninth race, a second-level allowance carded for 1 1/16 miles on turf. She is Point Missed, who will make her grass debut from the highly unfavorable post 12. Point Missed was part of the 2006 Delaware string, and won two races at that meet, but she will be hard-pressed to make good under these circumstances.

Also in the race is Ciao, who won an overnight turf stakes at Churchill last fall, but was a disappointing 11th in the Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland last month in her 2007 debut. You Dancing Devil just finished second at Keeneland to the highly promising Danzon, and is eligible for this condition only because her wins in Illinois-bred allowance company don't count against her.

Comeback possible for Three Hour Nap

Three Hour Nap, who fractured a foreleg last year during the running of the Washington Park Handicap - an injury that intensified the midsummer focus on breakdowns over Arlington's dirt track last year - has been stabled at the racetrack for 75 days, and has a chance to continue his racing career.

Three Hour Nap needed surgery to insert screws and a metal plate to stabilize his leg, and fears initially were that the injury was severe. But the break wasn't as bad as some, and after a normal recovery period at a Kentucky veterinary clinic, Three Hour Nap did the rest of his healing at a farm. The metal plate has been removed, though two screws remain, and Three Hour Nap might already have breezed had trainer Hugh Robertson not been displeased with a recent X-ray of the injury site. Robertson said that until the fracture spot has completely closed, Three Hour Nap would go no farther in his training, and that Three Hour Nap could simply be retired if his connections aren't fully satisfied with his progress. Robertson believes that Three Hour Nap, a son of Afternoon Deelites and a Grade 3 winner, could have a stallion career in a minor breeding market such as Illinois.

Meanwhile, Robertson has suddenly become a trainer of longshot winners. His first two of the Arlington meet were decent prices, City Number at 7-1 and Piano Tunner at 11-1, but on Sunday, Snowblind Friend popped at a ridiculous $89.80 win mutuel. Snowblind Friend had been ridden out to a sharp maiden win at Hawthorne in his final 2006 start, and has trained up to his 2007 debut in good fashion.

"He should have been something like 5-1," Robertson said.

Snowblind Friend is scheduled to make his next start in the Prairie Mile Stakes on June 9 at Prairie Meadows.

Graham wins six on single card

James Graham won as many races Thursday as he had all meet at Arlington, notching six winners on a 10-race program while increasing his meet total to 12, good for second in the standings behind Rene Douglas.

Graham, who missed by one Arlington's record for wins on a card, won five races last May 27 at Arlington. He also had a five-win day this past winter at Fair Grounds.

A 28-year-old Irishman who took out his jockey's license four years ago, Graham captured race 3 with Other Lady ($10.20); race 4 with Bronze Tribute ($30.60); race 6 with Aledo Magic ($8); race 7 with She's Impossible ($7.40); featured race 9 with Sidcup ($7.60); and race 10 aboard General Sherman ($19.20).

* The 41-year-old jockey Eddie Razo won the 2,500th race of his career when Pocket Bandit captured the first race on Friday at Arlington.