09/28/2005 12:00AM

Value Plus figures to fire in comeback


ELMONT, N.Y. - Value Plus, sidelined since early May, launches his comeback in Friday's $49,000 optional claiming allowance feature at Belmont Park.

, 4, trained by Todd Pletcher, suffered a hairline splint fracture following a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Westchester Handicap on May 4.

"I think it's a good spot to come back," Pletcher said. "He's a horse that generally runs well fresh."

Some of Value Plus's best efforts, a second-place finish in the 2003 Grade 1 Futurity at Belmont and a victory in April in the Artax Handicap at Gulfstream Park, were preceded by layoffs.

Value Plus will be ridden by usual Pletcher jockey John Velazquez. He turned in a bullet work of 1:00.13 for five furlongs on Sept. 23.

"He's been training well," said Pletcher, who hopes to use this race as a prep for Aqueduct's Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 26.

"We want to get a race into him," Pletcher said. "This is good timing for that."

Value Plus was one of the top-ranked 3-year-olds last year, when he started out his season with an allowance victory at Gulfstream Park and followed with a game effort in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, attacking the pace and losing by only three-quarters of a length.

Value Plus was a tiring sixth in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 1 Wood Memorial, New York's top Triple Crown prep, going off as the 5-2 favorite.

Since the Wood, Pletcher has run Value Plus at a mile or less.

, the lone 3-year-old in the field Friday, chased the pace from the outside in Belmont's Grade 3 Jerome Handicap on Sept. 11, eventually finishing fourth.

Trained by James Jerkens, Sir Greeley should appreciate the cutback in distance. He was a 9 1/2-length winner in a seven-furlong allowance race at Saratoga in his previous start.

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. entered Nebraska Moon and Mr. Whitestone, both for $75,000 claiming tags.

Nebraska Moon last ran in mid-July, finishing second in a similar race. Mr. Whitestone is winless this year, but has finished in the money in all four starts.

, 7, is a veteran of the stakes wars. He has won 10 times and banked $515,700 in a 56-race career. He most recently finished fifth in a similar race at the end of the Saratoga meet.

Taint So, an allowance winner at Saratoga, completes the field.