08/28/2003 12:00AM

Strong Hope scratched from future wager

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y - Strong Hope, who upset Empire Maker in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and who finished third in the Grade 1 Travers, was removed from the Sprint field for this weekend's after his connections decided the horse would not run again this year.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said there is nothing physically wrong with Strong Hope, but that he and owner Eugene Melnyk decided that Strong Hope is not a fit for a Breeders' Cup race this year. Pletcher said he would target next year's Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap for Strong Hope.

``We felt like for a 3-year-old to back up to the Sprint at this time might be counterproductive,'' Pletcher said. ``We kicked around the idea of running him on the turf and just didn't feel like maybe this was this the right setup. He's already run seven times this year and Mr. Melnyk is a big advocate of giving his horses time off at some point. The horse is definitely coming back to run as a 4-year-old and the Met Mile is a race we'd like to target for him.''

Pletcher said Strong Hope would shortly be sent to Melnyk's Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Fla., and would return to Pletcher's barn in December at Palm Meadows in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Pletcher said Strong Hope would probably return to the races in the Richter Scale Breeders' Cup Handicap at Gulfstream in March, the Carter at Aqueduct in April prior to the Met Mile run on Memorial Day at Belmont Park.

Strong Hope, a son of Grand Slam, won five of seven starts this year including the Dwyer and Jim Dandy, and earned $582,360.