01/12/2009 1:00AM

Z Humor in tougher than hoped


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was looking for "a softer spot" for Z Humor, who has kept a steady diet of stakes competition throughout his career. What he got - when he dropped Z Humor into Wednesday's $44,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park - was a field that also included graded-stakes-placed types such as Forest Command and Dream Maestro, along with the freshened Song Shan and European invader Izanagi.

Z Humor, a son of Distorted Humor, finished third in the Grade 1 Champagne and won the Delta Jackpot at 2. He finished third in the Grade 2 Illinois Derby last April as a prelude to his 14th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, but has never really lived up to expectations. He moved into Pletcher's barn, along with several other horses from the Zayat Stables, following his third-place finish in the Long Branch at Monmouth Park over the summer.

"The idea was to put him in a little softer, but the race came up pretty strong for a two-other-than," said Pletcher. "I thought his first two races for me were pretty solid even though he didn't win."

Z Humor, who will have the blinkers removed Wednesday, is one of two horses Pletcher entered in the one-mile allowance, along with Alaazo.

"I'm only going to run one of the two, most likely Z Humor," said Pletcher. "I think Alaazo is better going nine furlongs.

Forest Command may be the horse to beat coming off third-place finishes in the Grade 2 Super Derby and Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap to close out his 3-year-old campaign. Forest Command, a son of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, was an impressive six-length allowance winner this summer at Saratoga.

The stretch-running Dream Maestro has been graded stakes-placed in two of his last three starts, including a second place finish behind the loose-on-the-lead Finallymadeit in the 1o1/8-mile Fred Hooper Handicap, a Grade 3, in his final start at 3. Dream Maestro also finished second here earlier last year in the Grade 3 Holy Bull.

Song Shan led throughout to win a pair of seven furlong allowance races to open his 3-year-old season but has not started since finishing a tiring third following an eventful start going a mile here last April. The homebred has been training extremely well at Palm Meadows for his return.