05/14/2006 11:00PM

Sunriver targets the Belmont Stakes

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Sunriver will run next in the Peter Pan.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The field for the Preakness on Monday appeared to be growing significantly. But you still won't find Sunriver among the list of horses being considered for the middle jewel of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown.

Third to Barbaro in the Florida Derby, but excluded from the Kentucky Derby due to insufficient graded stakes earnings, Sunriver would have been a logical contender for the Preakness. But trainer Todd Pletcher has targeted the Belmont Stakes for Sunriver and plans to use Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan as the best way to get there.

Sunriver has not run since finishing 3 1/2 lengths behind Barbaro in the Florida Derby on April 1. Pletcher said he didn't think it was wise to run in the Preakness against Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro off a seven-week layoff.

"That's a big part of it," Pletcher said Monday from Monmouth Park, where he was checking on his string based at the Oceanport, N.J., track. "I don't mind a little extra time. I don't know that you want to go into the Preakness off a seven-week rest. The Peter Pan is a reasonably good spot and should set him up well for the Belmont."

On Sunday, Sunriver worked five furlongs in 1:00.02 over Belmont's main track.

Sunriver, a full brother to Pletcher's champion filly Ashado, won a 1 1/8-mile maiden race at Aqueduct last November, his second career start. He headed to Florida among the plethora of 3-year-olds Pletcher tried to point down the Triple Crown trail. After finishing second in an entry-level allowance race on Jan. 15 at Gulfstream, Sunriver ran seventh in the Holy Bull over a sloppy track. Pletcher took a step back with Sunriver and ran him in an allowance race on March 4 rather than the Fountain of Youth. Sunriver won that race, then finished third in the Florida Derby.

When more than 20 horses were entered for the Derby, Sunriver was excluded because he ranked 21st on the graded-stakes earnings list with $100,000.

"We wish he could have gotten a chance to run because he was doing very well," Pletcher said. "We felt like when we went to Florida he was a horse who had a chance to be a Derby horse. The Holy Bull kind of messed us up and he didn't get any graded earnings. He ran very well in the Florida Derby, which was obviously flattered by Barbaro's performance in the Kentucky Derby. Maybe it'll turn out to be a blessing. We'll take a softer route and maybe it'll pay dividends in the fall."

With such horses as Diabolical, Greeley's Legacy, and Platinum Couple now being considered for the Preakness, the field for the Peter Pan was in flux Monday. In addition to Sunriver, who will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, others pointing to the race are Strong Contender, Hesanoldsalt, Ice N Lemon, Lewis Michael, Putonyerdancinshuz, and Testimony. Harborage and Really Indian are possible.

Indian Vale to return in Shuvee

Pletcher confirmed that Indian Vale, a multiple-stakes-winning 3-year-old filly in 2005, would make her season debut in Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Shuvee Handicap.

Indian Vale won 5 of 6 starts as a 3-year-old, including the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm at Aqueduct and the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs. She resumed training in early March on owner Eugene Melnyk's Winding Oak Farm in Ocala, before joining Pletcher's stable in early April.

"I think she's fit," Pletcher said. "She's been training very well. I'd be a little concerned about the one-turn mile, that's probably a little short of her best distance. She seems to be at her best at two turns."

Indian Vale will meet defending 3-year-old filly champion Smuggler, who finished last in the Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup on April 22. Smuggler is the likely starting highweight at 120 pounds. Indian Vale was assigned 117. Others expected to run include Balletto (116), Grecian Lover (115), and Take D'Tour (114).

$16 million juvenile works

The Green Monkey, who sold for a world record $16 million at the Calder 2-year-old in training auction in February, worked three furlongs in 39.40 seconds Sunday. It was his first published work since coming to Pletcher's barn.

"He went fine," Pletcher said. "We weren't asking him for much. He just went by himself. He's got a good disposition, a good mind. You can go easy with him. A lot of times the 2-year-olds come out of those sales, they're cranked up and you have a difficult time slowing them down. With him, it's nice to know he's got different gears and he can give them to you when you ask."

Pletcher hopes to get The Green Monkey one start before the Saratoga meet.

Khalila wins wearing three shoes

The promising 3-year-old filly Khalila won an entry-level allowance race on Sunday by 10 1/4 lengths on Sunday despite running in just three shoes. She is now 2 for 2.

According to Kiaran McLaughlin, the trainer of Khalila, the filly threw her right hind shoe in the detention barn. Khalila is an ornery type and attempts to put the shoe back on failed. McLaughlin called the stewards to alert them to the problem, but asked if she could still run.

After a brief discussion, the stewards permitted the filly to run, but for purse money only. The announcement came before the first race, but at least 30 minutes after wagering had begun for the card. Those who bet on Khalila early in the pick four that began in race 2 and were unable to change their bets, got the post-time favorite, Chili Cat, who finished a well-beaten third.

Khalila, a $550,000 yearling purchase by Shadwell Stable, has been impressive in both her races. On April 12, she won her debut by four lengths, running six furlongs in 1:09.41 for a Beyer Speed Figure of 96. On Sunday, she dueled on the inside of Song and Delight, put that rival away and cruised home an easy winner. Khalila, a daughter of A.P. Indy, covered six furlongs in 1:09.87 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 91.

"She's a runner," McLaughlin said. "It was not the most difficult field, but the way she's done it both times now, she's obviously a very above-average filly and we're having fun."

McLaughlin would like to run Khalila in the Grade 1 Prioress here on July 8.