03/18/2003 12:00AM

Winds of war no obstacle


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Jack Wolf watched President Bush's speech to the nation along with many other Americans on Monday night. The talk of a possible war in the Middle East hit a little closer to home in the Wolf household, though. Wolf and his wife, Laurie, are planning to be in Dubai next week to watch their Harlan's Holiday compete in the $6 million Dubai World Cup.

"Naturally we've been concerned about going over there considering the world situation, and you become a little more apprehensive when you listen to the President's speech and really understand the reality of what's going on in that part of the world," Wolf said on Tuesday. "But as of now, unless the flights to Dubai are canceled, we're still planning on going over for the race. We haven't missed one of his races yet and we're not about to miss one for $6 million."

Harlan's Holiday, who earned his way into the World Cup with an easy victory at Gulfstream Park in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 22, left south Florida for Dubai late Saturday afternoon and arrived safely 19 hours later. The Wolfs are hoping they, too, will have an equally uneventful trip when they depart for the United Arab Emirates on Sunday.

"Both the U.S. and British governments are not prohibiting citizens from going to Dubai, but they are telling them to keep a low profile," said Wolf. "And the World Cup people keep telling us Dubai is the safest place in the world."

Wolf said the worst-case scenario would be having the races canceled now that he has already flown Harlan's Holiday to Dubai.

"The World Cup representatives keep assuring us the races will not be canceled," said Wolf, who termed "another potential problem" the possible inability of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez to make the trip. "They're not scheduled to fly to Dubai until just a few days before the race. The last thing we want to happen is to have to put someone else on this horse."

Wolf and Pletcher weighed the plusses and minuses of sending Harlan's Holiday to Dubai for several days following his victory in the Donn before deciding to make the trip.

"In the end we agreed that other than the situation in Iraq we felt it was a no-brainer for us to go," said Wolf. "The status of the event and the purse money was just too great to pass up. We only planned on running him twice more before the Whitney anyway. In addition, Todd and I looked over the past performances of most of the U.S. horses who'd previously competed in Dubai, and there haven't been that many who were adversely affected by the trip. I think that's been blown out of proportion. And win, lose, or draw Todd will give Harlan enough time to recover."

Harlan's Holiday will bring a record of nine victories in 18 starts and earnings of more than $2.2 million into the World Cup. Two of his most disappointing performances, however, came in the two biggest races of his career, the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic, in which he finished seventh and ninth.

"He was probably over the top by the time he got to the Derby," said Wolf. "We have no excuse for the Breeders' Cup other than he just chose not to run that day. I began thinking maybe he was just disinterested in racing any more at that point, but the way he came back in the Cigar Mile and in his first two starts this year proved those concerns were unfounded."

Wolf said once Harlan's Holiday returns from Dubai, the main goals for the remainder of the season will be the Whitney, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and another shot at the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"Obviously, we'd love to win in Dubai, but as long as he gives a good account of himself and comes back sound, the trip will be a success," said Wolf. "As for myself, I'm not really nervous about making the trip. The only thing that really makes me nervous is running for $6 million."

Man From Wicklow will carry 122

Trainer Rick Violette said he plans to accept the 122-pound assignment for his Man From Wicklow in Saturday's $200,000 Pan American Handicap.

Man From Wicklow comes into the 1 1/2-mile Pan American off impressive victories in Calder's W.L. McKnight Handicap to end his 2002 campaign and the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap to open the current season. The Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup gave Violette the first Grade 1 victory of his training career.

"I'm not going to cry over the weight," said Violette. "Picking up three pounds off his last race going 1 1/2 miles is not insignificant, but he's doing terrific at the moment. In fact, if anything he's doing even better than before those last two starts. I think he really gained a lot of confidence from those two wins.

Jerry Bailey, who teamed up with Man From Wicklow in both the McKnight and Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup, will stay in town Saturday for the Pan Am mount.

Among those expected to challenge Man From Wicklow in the Pan American are Just Listen, who finished second in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup and Macaw, second behind upset winner Riddlesdown in the Grade 3 Mac Diarmida Handicap earlier in the meet.

- Take Charge Lady moved closer to her 2003 debut after working five furlongs in 1:00.80 over a good track here Tuesday morning.

- Tweedside tuned up for her appearance in Sunday's $200,000 Orchid Handicap by breezing a half mile in 50.20 seconds at Palm Meadows on Tuesday. She will be the second choice in the Grade 2 Orchid behind San Dare.