05/18/2005 11:00PM

Woodlawn: Trainers play shell game


To get an idea of who the main contenders will be in the $100,000 Woodlawn Stakes on Saturday, it will be helpful to check the results of the Home of the Free Stakes on Friday at Belmont Park. Four of the Woodlawn entrants were also cross-entered in the Home of the Free, including the likely top three choices, and as of Thursday, at least two of the trainers were unsure where they were going to run. Both races are at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

"I'm probably 50-50," said Rick Violette Jr., the trainer of Wallstreet Scandal, on Thursday morning.

Steve Klesaris, who trains , wanted to know what Violette and Todd Pletcher, the trainer of English Channel, were doing. "If they go to Belmont, I'll go to Pimlico," Klesaris said.

The choice isn't going to be easy. It appeared English Channel was going to be at Pimlico, where regular rider John Velazquez had a full plate of mounts. Violette, the more he talked about the two races, seemed to be leaning toward remaining in New York. "I'm not afraid of Todd's horse, but he is a real horse," Violette said. "We don't have to face him if we stay here and run."

has won twice in three starts and comes off a powerful victory in a first-level allowance race at Keeneland.

is returning to the turf, on which he has run well twice, after failing to reproduce that form on dirt in the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby.

"Early on in the year, there's no money in grass races, so you force the issue sometimes on the dirt," Violette said.

Mighty Mecke is moving to the turf after winning twice in three starts on dirt. He was fifth last time out in the Florida Derby, when he came back on just 12 days' rest.

"We asked the colt to come back a touch on the quick side," Klesaris said. "He came out of the prior race so good, we took a shot because of the million-dollar purse."