11/28/2003 12:00AM

When Pletcher ships, watch out


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - When trainer Todd Pletcher sends a Eugene Melnyk-owned runner north of the border, it's usually time to sit up and take notice. That's the case Sunday at Woodbine, when Pletcher runs Melnyk's long-distance specialist Fisher Pond in the $143,500 Valedictory Handicap.

The 1 3/4-mile marathon is Woodbine's closing-day feature on an expanded 13-race card, which also includes the $135,250 Kingarvie Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds.

Fisher Pond ran three solid races over extended distances last fall in New York. He captured the off-the-turf Lawrence Realization in the slop, and was second in another stakes taken off the grass, the Grade 3 Red Smith. He capped his 2002 campaign by finishing a close third in the Grade 3 Gallant Fox Handicap at 1 5/8 miles.

Fisher Pond has raced sporadically this year while going winless in four starts. He has been idle since finishing second in a nine-furlong allowance Sept. 27 at Belmont, but has worked extensively in the interim.

According to Melnyk, the Valedictory has been on Fisher Pond's agenda for a while. "We've been waiting for this race," Melnyk said. "There are very few races on the dirt going a mile and a half or more. I've always enjoyed [the Valedictory], and it looks like a great spot for Fisher Pond."

Affirmed Feeling won the 1 1/2-mile allowance prep for the Valedictory in a romp for trainer David Bell, who said he was somewhat surprised by that breakout performance.

"We've always liked him, but he was more impressive than I thought he'd be." Bell said. "He's always been a one-paced horse, and sometimes going that far, it will help him."

Affirmed Feeling was sidelined for a year prior to his current campaign, which commenced when he won his maiden in a $40,000 claimer July 4.

"[The layoff] shouldn't have been a year," Bell said. "He didn't really do anything bad to himself. He had minor [problems], and came in late from the farm. He tied up one day, and it took me a long time to get that straightened away."

Parose, an accomplished middle-distance runner, finished third in the 2000 Valedictory, and was sixth in last year's running.

Lucky Molar took the 2002 Valedictory, but his lone win this year came in a $10,000 claimer at Delaware.

Mark One and Indy Lead could hook up on the lead and ensure an honest pace.