06/30/2003 12:00AM

Softer spot for Ocean Drive

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Declining an invitation to run in Saturday's $750,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park, trainer Todd Pletcher has found a much easier spot to get Ocean Drive's summer campaign started.

Ocean Drive, a winner of four of five career starts, seeks her fourth stakes victory in Wednesday's $65,000 Gaviola Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park. She will face seven rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race, scheduled for the Widener turf course.

Pletcher said the 10-furlong American Oaks would have been asking a lot of Ocean Drive, who has run only once this year - a gate-to-wire victory in the one-mile Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland on April 18. Ocean Drive was entered to run in the Sands Point Handicap at Belmont on June 15, but that race was rained off to the main track, and Ocean Drive scratched.

At 2, Ocean Drive won her first three starts impressively before finishing fourth, beaten four lengths, in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood in November. Though she won the Appalachian in front-running fashion, Ocean Drive appears more effective from off the pace.

"She had an inside post and, coming off a layoff, we opted to let her run away from there to get position and she found herself on the lead," Pletcher, who has a meet-best 29 victories, said of the Appalachian, which Ocean Drive won by a half-length. "She's better off following somebody, but if there's no pace she can [run on the lead] as well."

Jerry Bailey will ride Ocean Drive from post 3.

Lady Prantlack was 2 for 2 on firm turf before finishing fifth behind Ocean Drive in the Appalachian, which was run over a Keeneland turf course labeled yielding. Lady Prantlack, trained by Christophe Clement, will be in receipt of six pounds from Ocean Drive.

One and Twenty went 2 for 2 on turf as a 2-year-old, including a victory in the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine last September. She has raced only once on turf since, finishing eighth in the Via Borghese Stakes at Gulfstream in February.

Broadway Lady is interesting given her pedigree. She is a daughter of Ordway out of the dam Broadway Joan, making her a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Fourstardave and Fourstars Allstar. Broadway Lady, trained by Keith O'Brien, was expected to make her turf debut on June 8, but the race was rained off to a muddy main track and Broadway Lady won by four lengths.

Beautiful America, a New York-bred stakes winner on dirt, is also in the field, along with Reign of Tara, Bella Tusa, and Mariakel.