10/10/2002 12:00AM

Pletcher's big weekend


ELMONT, N.Y. - Following a two-win afternoon Thursday, Todd Pletcher is tied for leading trainer at this meet with Richard Dutrow Jr. Pletcher, who already has won the Belmont spring and Saratoga titles, enters a stakes-filled weekend as New York's second-leading trainer in stakes won for the year.

Pletcher will participate in all four stakes on this holiday weekend, with legitimate contenders in at least three of them.

Pletcher, whose nine New York stakes wins are second only to Bobby Frankel's 13, will send out Finality in Saturday's $150,000 Lawrence Realization, Boston Bull in Sunday's $100,000 Cowdin, Chimichurri in Sunday's $150,000 Astarita, and Something Ventured in Monday's $100,000 Pebbles Handicap.

Finality, who upset Chiselling in last month's Jamaica Handicap, will take on that rival again in the Grade 3 Lawrence Realization at 12 furlongs. After narrow losses in the Lexington Stakes and Saranac Handicap, Finality had what Pletcher called "a breakthrough performance" in the Jamaica. Pletcher hopes Finality can improve as he faces two obstacles Saturday: a soft turf course and 12 furlongs.

"I don't know how he'll handle soft turf," Pletcher said. "We know he likes the Belmont turf course. One of the considerations in running in this race is to see how he handles a mile and a half. If he is able to handle the mile and a half, it opens up a lot opportunities for us."

While Pletcher is not necessarily thinking about the Breeders' Cup Turf this year, a good performance at 12 furlongs by Finality on Saturday could make the Turf a target for next year.

In the Cowdin, run at 6 1/2 furlongs, Pletcher will send out probable favorite Boston Bull, who like Finality is owned by Dogwood Stable. After an adventurous debut under John Velazquez in which he finished second by a neck, Boston Bull, with blinkers on, came back to win his maiden by 2 1/4 lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 94.

"He lugged in in his first start and when Johnny was able to get him to the outside, he closed with a rush," Pletcher said. "We put blinkers on him in his second start and he seemed to run pretty professional."

Boston Bull will be in a field that is expected to include Mt. Carson, Paris Adventure, Roaring Fever, Run Production, and Wacky for Love.

Chimichurri is one of several with a chance in a contentious renewal of the Astarita, also at 6 1/2 furlongs. Beaten here in her debut in July, Chimichurri came back to win her maiden at Saratoga by seven lengths. After missing some time - and the Grade 1 Spinaway - to due a cough, Chimichurri won the Jersey Jumper Stakes at The Meadowlands by 3 1/2 lengths on Sept. 14.

"The timing was good," Pletcher said when asked why he ran Chimichurri in that race. "All the other races for her were longer or not at the right time. That race set us up well for this."

Chimichurri will have to face stakes winners Big Score, Wild Snitch, Humorous Lady, and impressive maiden winners Fast Cookie, Harford Ghost, Southern Smoke, and Cyber Secret.

Gander works for Empire Classic

Gander, the runner-up in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes in his last start, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.62 Thursday over Belmont's main track. He is being pointed to next Saturday's $250,000 Empire Classic, the main event on New York Showcase Day.

Trainer John Terranova said Gander actually worked six furlongs, which he timed in 1:14.40.

"His last breeze was really strong," Terranova said, referring to a Sept. 29 move timed in 59.20 seconds. "He's good and fit."

Terranova had to scratch Gander from last week's Meadowlands Cup because he was bleeding from his nose, most likely the result of hitting his head in the stall. "It wasn't a serious thing," Terranova said.

Gander will likely be favored in Empire Classic, a nine-furlong race restricted to New York-breds. Horses under consideration for the Empire Classic include Compelling World, J's Wild Slew, Mr. Determined, No Parole, Running Today, Sherpa Guide, Thebigapple, and Toddler.

* New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and bench coach Don Zimmer were at Belmont Thursday and presented the trophy for the sixth race winner.