05/29/2003 11:00PM

Same barn, separate paths

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Todd Pletcher nominated two promising 3-year-olds, Bishop Court Hill and Strong Hope, to Saturday's $200,000 Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup on the Belmont Stakes undercard, but probably will run only one of the colts.

Pletcher has tabbed Bishop Court Hill for the Grade 2 Riva Ridge at seven furlongs and is leaning toward running Strong Hope in a second-level allowance race at one mile the same day, so he can keep the horses, who are both owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, separated.

Neither Bishop Court Hill, who was bought at auction for $350,000 as a yearling, nor Strong Hope, purchased for $1.7 million as a yearling, raced at 2. They arrived in Pletcher's barn last December after spending time at the Melnyk's Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Fla.

"Both trained very well from the beginning," Pletcher said Friday. "Bishop Court Hill is slender and more of a feminine-type colt. Strong Hope is very big, about 1,300 pounds."

Bishop Court Hill, a son of Holy Bull, will make his stakes debut in the Riva Ridge. After destroying his rivals in a maiden sprint race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22, Bishop Court Hill ran around two turns at Keeneland as a prep for the Lexington Stakes. Bishop Court Hill finished seventh and Pletcher decided against the Lexington. Following a second-place finish at seven furlongs at Keeneland, Bishop Court Hill easily beat older horses in a 6 1/2-furlong race at Belmont on May 17.

"Right now it looks like a mile or less will be good for him," Pletcher said. "Possibly we'll try him on the grass because he is out of a Cormorant mare."

Strong Hope, a son of Grand Slam, finished fourth in his career debut at Gulfstream on March 8 in a six-furlong race that was run in a quick 1:08.66. Next out, he won a seven-furlong maiden race by 2 1/4 lengths in the slop at Aqueduct April 12. In his last start, May 14 at Belmont, Strong Hope held on to win a first-level allowance at a mile by a nose.

"We missed a little training for his last start," Pletcher said. "He got a little tired, and part of that was conditioning."

Pletcher, who won the 2000 Riva Ridge with Trippi, has a few other stakes candidates for Belmont week. Chapel Royal, a 9 1/4-length winner of a maiden race here May 15, will run in Friday's $100,000 Flash Stakes. Pletcher said if the turf is soft for Saturday's $200,000 Just a Game Breeders' Cup, he might run Carib Lady, who won the Gallorette Handicap at Pimlico on May 17 over a soft course.

Speightstown, second to Garnered in the off-the-turf Jaipur last weekend, will not run in Saturday's $250,000 True North Breeders' Cup. Pletcher wants to give Speightstown more time between starts and will point him to the $150,000 Tom Fool at Belmont July 4.

Frankel works his money makers

Bobby Frankel worked several of his stakes horses over Belmont's main track Friday.

Peace Rules, fourth in the Preakness, worked a half-mile in 48.01 seconds under Edgar Prado. Peace Rules is being pointed to the $500,000 Virginia Derby, a 1 1/4-mile grass race at Colonial Downs on July 12. You, who worked a half-mile in 48.63, is being considered for the $200,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park June 28. Shuvee winner Wild Spirit, who covered four furlongs in 48.92, is a candidate for the $300,000 Ogden Phipps here June 21.

Region of Merit's next is up in the air

Region of Merit, a nominee to the Riva Ridge, worked a half-mile in 48.12 on the main track Friday. Christophe Clement, who trains Region of Merit, said his mid-summer goal for Region of Merit is the $150,000 Dwyer July 6. Region of Merit won the Tampa Bay Derby in March.

"I'll look at the Riva Ridge, but I don't know," Clement said. "He's one work away from a race. I would like to go two turns around two weeks from now."

Clement, who will run Dynever in the Belmont Stakes, said another possibility for Region of Merit is the $250,000 Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware Park, a 1 1/16-mile race on June 14.

Shake You Down, My Cousin Matt work

Shake You Down, a winner of his last three starts, worked a half-mile in 48.01 Friday on the main track in preparation for the True North. In his last start, Shake You Down won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler for trainer Scott Lake and owner Robert Cole Jr.

Another of Lake's stakes-winning sprinters, My Cousin Matt, had his first work since finishing fifth in the Dubai Golden Shaheen at Nad al Sheba on March 29. Working on Belmont's training track, My Cousin Matt covered a half-mile in a bullet 47.03.

"We've been going really light with him," Lake said. "One of his stifles was bothering him and we got that taken care of. I'm not sure yet when he'll run, but I'm thinking about a three-week time frame."

* A large field is taking shape for Thursday's $100,000 Meadow Brook steeplechase. Among the expected runners are Trebizond, Naughty Prince, and Fighting Star, the first three finishers from the Grade 1 Hard Scuffle at Churchill Downs on May 1. The Hard Scuffle was the first leg of the steeplechase triple crown. The second leg, the Joe Aitcheson at Pimlico, was canceled this year because of inclement weather. The 2 1/2-mile Meadow Brook is the final race in the series.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman