10/31/2003 1:00AM

Pletcher on track for first New York title


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - With 40 racing days remaining in New York this year, trainer Todd Pletcher is on his way to winning his first year-end training title.

Counting Friday's card, Pletcher has saddled 114 winners this year from 440 starters in New York. Richard Dutrow Jr. is next in the standings, with 77 winners from 331 starters. Dutrow won the title the last two years and Pletcher was second. Pletcher also was the runner-up in 1999 to John Kimmel.

Pletcher, who won this year's spring and fall meets at Belmont and the Saratoga meet, is in a close race with Bobby Frankel for most stakes victories in New York. Frankel, who has shipped his horses back to California, won 16 stakes in New York this year, two more than Pletcher. Unlike Frankel, Pletcher figures to be well represented in Aqueduct stakes through the end of the year.

Frankel and Pletcher are also in a tight battle for the money title. Frankel leads with $6,292,530, compared to Pletcher's $6,031,097. It's not out of the question for Pletcher to surpass Frankel, who might not run any more horses in New York this year.

Pletcher, 36, said he has given the 2003 New York training title little thought because his competitive nature doesn't allow him to dwell on his success.

"Obviously, it's a big accomplishment," Pletcher said Friday morning at Belmont Park. "The first time I have to reflect on it, I'll realize it will be in the record books. I have no time to reflect on it now. If I run four horses and win with three, I'm worrying about the one that got beat, not the other three."

Pletcher said he currently has 113 horses in his operation. With Saratoga's barn area closing Sunday, 20 of Pletcher's horses left for Florida on Friday. The bulk of his Florida division will leave Belmont on Dec. 1. He expects to have 40 horses in New York during the winter.

"Since we came back from Florida the horses have been running well," said Pletcher. "We've been able to maintain that through the summer and fall, and, hopefully, will keep it going. We've got some nice 2-year-olds in the barn and Strong Hope will be coming back, which will be exciting."

Coyote Lakes might be retired

Coyote Lakes has won the last three runnings of the Gallant Fox, but it's questionable whether he will defend his title when the Gallant Fox is run on Dec. 27.

After a lengthy vacation, Coyotes Lakes, a 9-year-old, returned to the races on Oct. 25 and finished eighth as the favorite in a $75,000 claiming race. It was Coyote Lakes's first race since Feb. 2.

Bruce Levine, who trains Coyote Lakes for Roddy Valente, said he will run the horse in another claiming race and if he doesn't run well, he will be retired.

"He has done more than his share," said Levine. "He's had physical problems in the past, but this year he has not overcome them. If he can't perform, I don't want to continue to run him."

Coyote Lakes, who was claimed by Valente for $50,000 in August 1998, has a record of 20-8-3 in 63 starts and earnings of $728,337.

Feet ail Redskin Warrior

Redskin Warrior, a promising 2-year-old trained by Jennifer Pedersen, was vanned off the track after winning his second consecutive race Thursday. Pedersen said a case of tender feet might have been the problem.

"The X-rays so far are good, but we will check him out some more," Pedersen said. "We think his feet were just stinging him because of the [hard] track. We're going to let him tell us what's next. I absolutely believe he's a stakes horse. He runs like a possessed devil. He's freaky."

Redskin Warrior won a maiden race at Belmont Park by 3 1/4 lengths on Oct. 2. On Thursday, Redskin Warrior won a six-furlong race by 4 3/4 lengths, under a hand ride. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90.

Violette's horses set to return

Trainer Richard Violette Jr. is getting two of his stakes horses - Man From Wicklow and Fund of Funds - ready for a return to the races. Both were laid up during the summer due to injuries.

Grade 1 winner Man From Wicklow, a 6-year-old turf runner, hasn't run since the spring because of a strained ligament in his left foreleg. Violette said Man From Wicklow is about 30 days away from running.

Fund of Funds, the runner-up to Ten Most Wanted in the Illinois Derby in April, has recovered from a small lesion tear in his left foreleg. A 3-year old, Fund of Funds is about 60 days away from returning to competition.