08/03/2008 12:00AM

Red Giant scores in comeback


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Todd Pletcher had planned on bringing Grade 1 winner Red Giant back from a 10-month layoff against allowance company earlier in the meet. When the race did not fill, Pletcher went to Plan B, which turned out even better after Red Giant rallied to outfinish Stalingrad by a neck in Sunday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga.

“This race was the backup plan and we got lucky,” said Pletcher, who trains Red Giant for the Peachtree Stable.

Red Giant, winner of the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at 3, had not started since finishing second in the Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap in October 2007. And the son of Giant’s Causeway couldn’t have gotten a better trip for his return.

Rating nicely just off the pace of Inca King, Red Giant saved ground around both turns under jockey John Velazquez. Stalingrad took the first run at the leader, surging to the front approaching the eighth pole. Velazquez was bottled up briefly along the hedge in early stretch but found a seam near the sixteenth pole, after which Red Giant kicked in strongly once clear to run down Stalingrad in the closing yards.

Thorn Song raced within easy striking distance throughout, lacked a closing response, but was able to outlast Distorted Reality by a nose to finish third. Danak, making his first start in the U.S. since finishing sixth in the 2007 Arlington Million, was sent postward the 2-1 favorite only to be pulled up in late stretch and vanned off after the race.

Red Giant ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.93 over a course downgraded from firm to yielding midway through the card and paid $10.60.

“He had an ankle issue which flared up last year so we gave him some time and shot for a summer campaign,” explained Pletcher. “We knew he was a quality horse and I wasn’t concerned whether he was good enough to run in a spot like this. The only concern was the layoff.”

Pletcher said he had no specific race picked out for Red Giant’s next start.

“He’s been off for a while so we’ll play it by ear,” said Pletcher. “The Bernard Baruch is a possibility. We’ll just have to see if it gives us enough time.”

The Grade 2 Bernard Baruch will be run as part of the Travers Day program on Aug. 23.