06/03/2010 11:00PM

Pletcher will double-team Eldaafer in Brooklyn

Barbara D. Livingston
Eldaafer won last year's Brooklyn for trainer Diane Alvarado.

ELMONT, N.Y. - For the second straight year, the Brooklyn Handicap is a battle of Diane vs. Goliath.

Diane Alvarado, whose six-horse barn includes defending Brooklyn winner Eldaafer, takes on two runners from the deep pool of trainer Todd Pletcher when the Grade 2, $200,000 Brooklyn is run for the 122nd time on Friday at Belmont Park.

Eldaafer beat the Pletcher-trained Nite Light by a whisker in last year's Brooklyn. Nite Light could not answer the bell this year - he was recently taken out of training and returned to the Virginia farm of his owner, Ed Evans - but Pletcher brings a solid one-two punch in American Dance, who is also owned by Evans, and Tiger's Rock.

The Brooklyn is the final race on a 10-race card that also includes the Grade 3, $100,000 Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-old grass runners.

At 1 1/2 miles, the Brooklyn is the same distance as the Belmont Stakes, to be run Saturday. Much of the reason for its placement on Friday, and as the final race, is to serve as a dress rehearsal for the ABC telecast of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. There is a Brooklyn/Belmont double wager linking those two races.

Eldaafer has thrived over the years at Belmont Park, where he has won 3 of 5 starts. He comes off a powerful win in a starter allowance race here on May 20. Alvarado added blinkers to his equipment that day.

"He ran a great race two weeks ago," Alvarado said Wednesday from Delaware Park, where she is based in the summer. "He loves to run at Belmont Park. He's a difficult horse. One morning he's fine, the next morning he'll try to drop you. He hates routine. One morning before we left Gulfstream, I tried him in blinkers. He worked really well in them."

American Dance returned from a seven-month layoff to finish second in a second-level allowance going one mile at Aqueduct on April 18.

"His comeback race was good," Pletcher said. "He's kind of a one-paced horse. We think he'll like this type of race."

Tiger's Rock is seeking to return to the good form he had a few starts back, when he won consecutive stakes races going 1 5/8 miles on the inner dirt track at Aqueduct. Since then, he ran poorly on a synthetic surface in the Santa Anita Handicap, then was dreadful in the Elkhorn Stakes on the grass at Keeneland when ridden by Garrett Gomez.

"We're hoping he just hated the turf," Pletcher said. "He had a quarter-crack patch for that race, but that was not an issue. Garrett said every time he turned him loose, he floundered, so he just eased him."

Gangbuster comes off a third-level allowance win on the Belmont turf in his first start for trainer Tim Ice, who knows a little something about winning 1 1/2-mile races here, having won the Belmont Stakes last year with Summer Bird.

Four others are entered in the Brooklyn, including Alcomo, who ran poorly on a synthetic surface in Dubai three times this past winter but won the 1 1/2-mile Greenwood Cup last year at Philadelphia Park.