12/03/2002 12:00AM

Snake heads Jerkens attack


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Jimmy Jerkens has a bevy of talented handicap horses to run on the East Coast this winter. Finding the proper spots in which to run them all could be a challenge.

With Wrangler, Voodoo, Multiple Choice, and Snake Mountain, Jerkens has horses to run in races ranging from six to 10 furlongs. Voodoo and Multiple Choice may be best going seven furlongs or a mile around one turn, races that are not run during Aqueduct's inner track meet.

However, Snake Mountain and Wrangler have already proven themselves over the inner oval and could be the top handicap horses going long and short, respectively, here this winter.

Snake Mountain, coming off a half-length victory in last month's Grade 3 Stuyvesant Handicap, will be the starting highweight in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Queens County Handicap. He will carry 117 pounds under Jose Santos.

Jerkens has been patient with Snake Mountain, who won his maiden by 12 lengths over the inner track in February. Jerkens ran the gelding through his conditions before trying the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap in August, a race in which he finished fourth behind Evening Attire. At the time, Snake Mountain was just getting over a case of skin disease, according to Jerkens, which may have explained his poor effort.

Following a freshening, Snake Mountain has returned with two strong performances, including an easier-than-it-looks-on-paper victory in the Stuyvesant.

"I was really pleased with the speed he showed the other day," Jerkens said. "He was laying up close to the pace and he was just galloping."

Snake Mountain figures to go off the favorite in the Queens County, which will be run at 1 3/16 miles. Among those expected to run are Cat's at Home, Docent, Jarf, Nothing Flat, Pleasant Breeze, Tempest Fugit, and Country Be Gold.

Meanwhile, Jerkens recently welcomed Wrangler back to his barn. Wrangler, who won the Paumonok here and the Grade 2 General George at Laurel last winter, was given the summer off after going off form in the spring. He last raced in the May 11 Bold Ruler Handicap when he finished last.

Wrangler resumed training earlier this fall at owner Frank Stronach's Adena Springs Farm in Florida and returned to Jerkens about two weeks ago. On Monday, Wrangler breezed five furlongs in 1:01.82 over Belmont's training track, the third fastest of 38 moves at the distance. Jerkens is pointing him to the $100,000 Gravesend Handicap on Dec. 26.

Voodoo was being pointed to last week's Fall Highweight Handicap, but wasn't entered because Jerkens and his owners did not like the weight assignment. Last Friday, Voodoo rolled to an impressive 11 1/4-length victory in a one-mile allowance race. Jerkens was noncommittal about where Voodoo would run next.

"I've learned not to make plans for him," Jerkens said. "Whenever it looks like he's doing good, we'll just try to find a spot for him."

Multiple Choice ran the race of his life winning the Sport Page Handicap on Nov. 5. He was entered in the Cigar Mile, but popped a quarter crack in a hind foot and was scratched. Jerkens said Multiple Choice shouldn't miss too much time.

Balto Star to skip Queens County

Balto Star, a 2 1/2-length winner of a classified allowance race on dirt here on Nov. 21, will not run in Saturday's Queens County Handicap, trainer Todd Pletcher said. Instead, Pletcher will point him to the $150,000 Appleton Handicap, a one-mile turf race at Gulfstream on Jan. 4.

Meanwhile, Pletcher said Harlan's Holiday and Bham came out of their respective weekend stakes in good order, and will be aimed at races at Gulfstream Park. Harlan's Holiday, who finished fourth in the Cigar Mile, will be pointed to the Donn Handicap on Feb. 22 and Bham, runner-up to Toccet in the Remsen, will likely make his next start in the Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 18.

Pletcher believes Harlan's Holiday encountered some traffic trouble in the Cigar Mile that prevented him from possibly finishing second.

"He was stuck inside a good portion of the way, and he checked at the quarter pole," Pletcher said. "It might have been closer for second with a little smoother run at it."

* No Parole left trainer Joe Aquilino's Aqueduct barn Tuesday morning on a van bound for Florida where he will run in Saturday's $100,000 Kenny Noe Handicap at Calder.