12/31/2009 12:00AM

Tiger's Rock continues Pletcher's roll


Tiger's Rock, the least accomplished of trainer Todd Pletcher's trio of entrants, roared past stablemate and 4-5 favorite Nite Light just outside the eighth pole and cruised to a 4 3/4-length victory in Thursday's $72,800 Gallant Fox Handicap. Nite Light, the 2007 Gallant Fox winner, held second by a length over longshot Giant Chieftain.

Tiger's Rock, making his first start on dirt and his first start in a stakes race, had won at the Gallant Fox distance of 1 5/8 miles two starts back in a first-level allowance race at Keeneland. Thursday, he rated in fifth under David Cohen, advanced along the rail to reach contention at the half-mile pole, bided his time until midway around the turn, then went after Nite Light, who had taken over from a tiring pacesetter Lord Kipling at the three-furlong pole.

Tiger's Rock took charge between the three-sixteenths pole and the eighth pole and drew clear. Jockey Ramon Dominguez dropped the whip aboard Nite Light, but it wouldn't have made a difference. Tiger's Rock, a 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway, covered the 1 5/8 miles in 2:47.34 and returned $25.60.

The victory was the 13th from 27 starters in the month of December over the inner track for the Pletcher stable.

"He has encouraged us in the mornings with his workouts,'' said Jonathan Thomas, the New York-based assistant for Pletcher. "He handled [dirt] very well in the morning. We were just hoping he'd translate it to the afternoon. Obviously, his strength is the ability to get an extreme route of ground.''

Though Dominguez lost the Gallant Fox, he won two races earlier on the card, which gave him 376 victories on the New York Racing Association circuit in 2009. Only Steve Cauthen, who won 433 races here in 1977, had a better year on this circuit.