Multiple graded stakes winner Strong Hope, who ran third in the Aug. 23 Travers Stakes (gr. I), will be given the rest of the year off from competition, trainer Todd Pletcher said Thursday.(Earlier in the day, Strong Hope was removed from wagering in Round 2 of the Breeders' Cup Future Bet.)The time off was not due to an injury, Pletcher said, but simply to give the Grand Slam colt a break after running seven times in eight months. Strong Hope did not race as a 2-year-old.The 3-year-old colt will be turned out to owners Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Fla., and is not expected to return to training until November."The horse is fine. He's just earned himself a little rest," Pletcher said. "Mr. Melnyk is an advocate of giving his horses some time off at some point. We're going to give him a vacation."Winner of the Dwyer (gr. II) and Jim Dandy (gr. II), Strong Hope had his five-race win streak snapped in the Travers, where he hooked up in a speed duel with Peace Rules, who ran second to Ten Most Wanted.Pletcher said he and Melnyk gave some consideration to cutting back in the distances of Strong Hope's races, starting with the one-mile Jerome (gr. II) Sept. 13 with a possible eye on the Breeders' Cup Sprint in October."When we start looking at the options in front of him, the route races, the Jerome wasn't a step in the direction we wanted to go," Pletcher said. "It's back a little quick. You eliminate that, (then) you're looking at 3-year-old races like the
Super Derby at a mile and a quarter, and we weren't really interested in that. The Woodward, we weren't really interested in that, or the Jockey Club [Gold Cup]. The options became whether we wanted to sprint him or not. We just felt like the Breeders' Cup Sprint for a 3-year-old, backing up into that scenario
wasn't exactly what we wanted to do."
Instead, Pletcher said the tentative plan calls for Strong Hope to come back in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, the seven-furlong Carter (gr. I) at Aqueduct in April and the one-mile Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park in May."Trying to map out his schedule for next year, we felt like the race that would be the most important to a horse like that is the Met Mile," Pletcher said.A $1.7 million purchase by Melnyk at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale in August 2001, Strong Hope ends the year with a record of 5-0-1 from seven starts, with earnings of $582,360.