11/26/2001 12:00AM

Pletcher's barn streaking as season ends


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Trainer Todd Pletcher wishes he could turn the calendar back a few months.

With Left Bank and Graeme Hall - the one-two finishers from Saturday's Grade 1 Cigar Mile - in the best form of their careers, it's hard putting them on the shelf for a few months.

"You have two horses that are doing so well, you'd love to have a big race a month from now," Pletcher said Monday morning. "But given the time of year and the fact they're both going to run as 5-year-olds, obviously, you've got to give them a break sometime."

Left Bank and Graeme Hall, as well as Demoiselle winner Smok'n Frolic and Remsen runner-up Nokoma are all expected to winter at Gulfstream Park, Pletcher said.

Those four - plus Top Flight Handicap runner-up Tugger and allowance winner Major Wager - contributed to one of the best weekends in Pletcher's young career. Of 11 horses Pletcher saddled at Aqueduct since Thursday, he had five winners, three seconds, and two thirds. His five wins moved him atop the Aqueduct trainer standings with 10, one ahead of Shug McGaughey.

Nationally, Pletcher has 117 winners from 516 starters (a .226 winning percentage) and his horses have earned $7,292,053, putting him fifth in the country in money won, $20,495 behind Steve Asmussen in fourth. Asmussen has 802 more starters than Pletcher.

Pletcher will have some interesting decisions to make regarding a 2002 campaign for Left Bank. Victories in the Vosburgh and Cigar Mile proved Left Bank is Grade 1 caliber at seven-furlongs and a mile. But his fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint proved six furlongs is too short for him.

"Right now, the Breeders' Cup Classic would be more likely than the Sprint," Pletcher said when asked about long-term goals for 2002. "Six furlongs against those kinds of horses is a little too short for him."

Although there is the Breeders' Cup Mile on turf, Pletcher said he has twice worked Left Bank on the grass and "didn't think he worked well enough to merit trying him on it."

Pletcher said Left Bank's early 5-year-old season could begin in the Donn Handicap in February, the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship or a mile race in Dubai worth $1 million on March 23, the same day as the $6 million World Cup.

Pletcher said he would definitely keep Left Bank and Graeme Hall separated. Graeme Hall, who is better-suited to longer races, could be pointed to the Donn and/or New Orleans Handicap. "He's proven he's very capable at a mile and an eighth," Pletcher said.

By finishing a game second in the Remsen, Nokoma gave Pletcher hope that he will make his third consecutive appearance in the Kentucky Derby. Nokoma ran in the Remsen coming out of maiden win and six-week layoff.

"I wasn't only happy with his race, but I was happy the way he did it," Pletcher said. "He was wide in the first turn, he took dirt in his face and he split horses in the stretch. He showed a lot of professionalism for a horse that started twice before that."

Pletcher said Nokoma would be pointed to the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on Feb. 16.

Smok'n Frolic, who easily handled the nine-furlongs of the Demoiselle, will probably get one start before the Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream.

Pletcher will be busy this weekend at Aqueduct as well. He is expected to start Arkansas Derby winner Balto Star in the $100,000 Queens County Handicap on Saturday and Lovely Amanda in the $75,000 Montauk on Sunday.

Lovely Amanda worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 Monday morning over Belmont's training track.

Saarland heading to Florida

Saarland, the Remsen winner, was scheduled to leave Tuesday by van to Gulfstream Park, where he could launch his 3-year-old season in the Fountain of Youth.

Saarland, a son of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, showed that two turns is what he wanted by unleashing a strong kick in the final furlong to run down Nokoma. He switched back to his wrong lead in the stretch, but still managed to get up.

"I'm sure the racing experience will do him good," said Buzz Tenney, assistant to trainer Shug McGaughey. "He's got a lot to learn."

Saarland was scheduled to leave for Florida with 14 other McGaughey-trained horses, including Top Flight one-three finishers Cat Cay and Atelier.

Perfect Cat euthanized

Perfect Cat, winner of the Grade 3 Schaefer Handicap in the spring, had to be euthanized earlier this month after foundering.

A 4-year-old son of Tabasco Cat, Perfect Cat had a record of 5-8-3 from 26 starts and earned $493,113 for owner Edward Evans and trainer Mark Hennig. At 3, he finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby. At 4, in addition to his Schaefer win, Perfect Cat finished second in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap, second in the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap, and second in the Grade 3 Ben Ali.

"He was such a neat horse," trainer Mark Hennig said. "He tried so hard every time."

Jerkens breaks wrist

Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens broke his right wrist on Saturday. Jerkens was attempting to climb aboard his pony when he changed his mind. He slipped getting off and used his right hand to brace his fall. He was fitted with a cast and had his arm in a sling.

Jerkens was to have a consultation with a doctor on Monday afternoon to see if surgery would be required.

"I broke it when I was 9 years old and my teacher made write with my left hand," Jerkens said.

* Red Bullet, the third-place finisher from Saturday's Cigar Mile, came out of his race in good order and may be pointed to the $100,000, Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap at Gulfstream on Jan. 12, trainer Joe Orseno said. The horse left on Monday for Florida, where he will spend a week at owner Frank Stronach's Ocala farm.