On a Rough Day, Pletcher Breaks Stakes Mark

Even on a bad day, trainer Todd Pletcher broke a record.

Pletcher, shut out with 17 runners in the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs, set the single-season mark for graded stakes wins when Safari Queen captured the $150,000 Long Island Handicap (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares on the turf Saturday at Aqueduct.

Assistant Seth Benzel saddled Safari Queen, who edged Royal Highness by a half-length, finishing the 1 1/2-mile race in 2:30.93. She paid $13.60, $5 and $3.30, Royal Highness returned $2.30 and $2.10, and Reform Act paid $2.80 to show.

Pletcher has 54 graded stakes wins, moving one past D. Wayne Lukas' 1987 record.

The Argentine-bred 4-year-old filly Safari Queen, ridden by Chris DeCarlo and carrying 115 pounds -– six less than the 7-10 favorite Royal Highness – rallied wide on the final turn, drew clear by three lengths in the stretch, then held on stubbornly over the charging Royal Highness and Richard Migliore. It was one length back to Reform Act, ridden by Eibar Coa.

"When I called on her, she just took off," DeCarlo said. "I had a lot of horse the whole way."

Mpenzi, Hermance, Isabel Way and Cologne trailed. Wait It Out lost rider Jean-Luc Samyn entering the final turn.

Isabel Way led for the opening mile, which she completed in 1:41 2/5.

Arindel Farm's Safari Queen earned her third victory in seven starts since arriving in the U.S. from her native Argentina for the 2006 season. A multiple group I winner in Argentina, the daughter of Lode won her first graded stakes in America. She was coming off a seventh-place finish in Belmont's one-mile Noble Damsel Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) Sept. 23.

Overall, she has won six of 11 starts with earnings of $260,489.

(Chart, Equibase)