08/09/2003 12:00AM

Veitch deems Pletcher worthy heir


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - John Veitch was only 9 years old in the summer of 1954 when his father, Sylvester Veitch, won 24 races during the 24-day Saratoga meeting. Now 58, Veitch is about to watch that record fall.

Trainer Todd Pletcher won his 23rd race of the meet on Saturday when Newfound-land was placed first by the stewards in the eighth race after being interfered with by Thompson Rouge in deep stretch. That moved Pletcher within one win of equaling Syl Veitch's mark after just 16 days of the meet. John Veitch, for one, is rooting for Pletcher.

"Records should be broken," said Veitch, whose father died in 1986, the first full year Pletcher had horses. "I think Todd does a wonderful job. To come off his Belmont meet and to carry that momentum is a great achievement."

Pletcher, who won a record 40 races during the Belmont spring/summer meet, has done it with 135 horses in training to choose from. Through Saturday, he had started 62 horses at Saratoga. According to Veitch, his father had around 30 horses in training in 1954 when he trained horses for the Whitney family.

"I'm surprised that the record has stayed as long as it has considering the modern trends," Veitch said. "I know how proud he was and how elated C.V. Whitney was."

Pletcher has had nine multiple-win days this meet, including five in a row from Aug. 3-8. Veitch said his father had several multiple-win days as well, but he could not remember how many.

"I know his win percentage was just phenomenal," Veitch said. "Most of his horses made only one start at the meet."

Heckle sidelined with shin injury

Heckle, winner of the Grade 3 Tremont Stakes, has a tender left front shin that will prevent him from running in Wednesday's $150,000 Saratoga Special, his connections said Saturday. Heckle was to be shipped on Tuesday to Kentucky and will be evaluated on Aug. 18 at the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic.

Heckle, who finished last after stumbling at the break in the Sanford here on opening day, worked in company with Limehouse on Wednesday over the Oklahoma training track. Both colts were timed in 1:01.

"His work the other day wasn't him," said Cot Campbell, president of the Dogwood Stable syndicate that owns Heckle and Limehouse. "He finished even with [Limehouse] but he was lacking a little something. He does have a tender shin, and this is a good time to find out exactly what he has got."

Dogwood and Pletcher will still be represented in the Saratoga Special by Limehouse, who has won all three of his starts including the Three Chimneys Juvenile and Bashford Manor Stakes.

"I think he's very professional; he understands the game and has the ideal style," Campbell said of Limehouse. "He lays right behind the speed and goes and gets them. When you ask him, he gives you the answer. For being sort of a dumb yearling with a lot of quirks, he's turned into a very professional horse."

Sellers: Bad morning, good afternoon

Jockey Shane Sellers escaped serious injury Saturday morning after a horse he was on broke down following a four-furlong workout. Sellers was aboard Solar Force, an unstarted 2-year-old colt trained by Nick Zito, after the colt had just finished a half-mile breeze out of the gate timed in 49.15 seconds. The horse took a misstep and broke his right foreleg. He had to be euthanized on the track.

Sellers was taken to Saratoga Hospital, where he was examined and released. Sellers won two races on Saturday's card, including the fourth race with a good-looking 2-year-old filly, Debs Charm, who won her debut by three lengths.

"I had what they called a spinal-cord contusion," Sellers said. "When they started saying I'd have to take seven days off, I started crawling out of that gurney. I'm a little stiff, but there's nothing that's going to keep me away from this game."

Meanwhile, Zito was distraught over the loss of Solar Force, a son of Siphon owned by Buckram Oak Farm. Zito had hoped to run Solar Force in a maiden race last Thursday, but the racing office did not split the race into two divisions and Solar Force did not make it into the entries.

Frankel back in town

Trainer Bobby Frankel returned from California on Friday, and on Saturday he had several runners out on the track for workouts.

Ghostzapper, who won a second-level allowance race on July 26, worked five furlongs in 1:01.02 and is being pointed to the Grade 1 King's Bishop here on Aug. 23. Wild Spirit, the Delaware Handicap winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01.71 in preparation for the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap on Aug. 22.

Frankel worked several of his turf fillies, including Heat Haze, who went five furlongs in 1:01.62, and Zenda, who went the same distance in 1:02.26. Frankel said Heat Haze, along with California-based Tates Creek and Megahertz, is under consideration for the Beverly D. on Saturday at Arlington. Zenda is not nominated to the Beverly D. and will not be supplemented, Frankel said. She is possible for the Ballston Spa here on Aug. 23.