Ocean Drive Can Make Grade in Lake George

Ocean Drive, whose maiden victory on closing day last year gave Todd Pletcher his first training title at Saratoga, leads a field of 14 into Monday's $100,000-added Lake George (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-old fillies.

The Lake George is scheduled for 1 1/16 mile on the turf.

"She has been a very special filly for us in more ways than one," Pletcher said. "Not only has she become a multiple stakes winner, she helped me win the training title. She's a really nice filly to have around our barn."

Pletcher edged Bill Mott, 19-18, for the 2002 title.

With rain in the forecast, Pletcher said he is not concerned about the condition of the turf course, even if it is soft. He emphasized, however, that Ocean Drive would only run if the race remains on the grass.

Pletcher already had the misfortune of scratching Ocean Drive out of the Sands Point at Belmont Park after rain forced the race to be moved to the main track. But he was able to find another spot for the filly a few weeks later at Belmont Park in the Gaviola Stakes, which she won by 1 1/4 length.

"After the Sands Point was taken off the grass, we had to go to our backup plan, the Gaviola," he said. "Luckily, everything went well. The main thing now is we want the Lake George to stay on the turf. She has proven herself that she can handle any turf condition, firm or soft."

Ocean Drive has won 5 of 6 career starts and has earned $247,186 for her owners Bonnie and Sy Baskin. Her only blemish was a fourth-place finish in the Miesque Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park at the end of November.

"She just didn't run her race that day," Pletcher said about Ocean Drive's race at Hollywood Park. "The turf may have been too firm where the speed was holding up. Otherwise, she has been perfect."

Pletcher brought her to the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida for a rest during the winter season. Pletcher finally brought the daughter of Belong to Me back to the races in April at Keeneland in the Appalachian Stakes, where her running style changed and yielded a front-running score.

"We thought she needed a break after the race at Hollywood and to get her freshened up for the turf season heading into the fall," Pletcher said. "We hoped to have her ready for the Appalachian, which we did. Hopefully, if everything goes well, we would like to get her to the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. That's a grade I event and we would like to be involved in that."

Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey will ride Ocean Drive, who is still looking for her first graded stakes victory, for the third consecutive time.

Chester and Mary Broman's Beautiful America gets another chance at Ocean Drive after finishing second in the Gaviola. It was the first time that Beautiful America had tried grass.

"She ran pretty well for us on the grass," trainer Mike Hernandez said. "We wanted to try her on the grass because there are some turf races coming up that part of the New York Breeding and Racing Program."

During her two-year-old season, Beautiful America won three consecutive races – the Joseph A. Gimma, the Maid of the Mist on New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park and the New York Stallion Stakes.

Once Beautiful America proved herself sprinting in the New York-bred restricted races, Hernandez started taking chances by having her try two turns, as well as open company. In her first attempt going two turns, Beautiful America was second in the East View for state breds at 1 1/16 mile over Aqueduct's inner dirt track.

After that race, Hernandez gave Beautiful America a four-month break before making her first start as a 3-year-old against open company. She tired and finished third. Beautiful America also struggled in her next start – the New York Stallion Stakes Filly and Mare division – as she encountered a bad start and finished fourth.

Beautiful America finally got it together with a six-length score in the $250,000 Statue of Liberty Division of the New York Stallion Stakes. Hernandez is expecting a similar performance from his filly following a strong finish in the

"Ocean Drive ran a nice race and we were competitive against her," Hernandez said. "I'm expecting both horses to be tough again. It's possible that both could come back and run the same race."

$100,000-added Lake George Stakes (gr. IIIT), 3-year-old fillies, 1 11/6 mile on turf
1. Impolite, Linda Rice, Jose Ferrer, 117
2. Snowdrops, Christophe Clement, Mark Guidry, 115
3. Mariakel, Carlos Martin, Jorge Chavez, 115
4. Film Maker, Graham Motion, Edgar Prado 115
5. Kitty Knight, H. Allen Jerkens, Jean-Luc Samyn, 117
6. Broadway Lady, Keith O'Brien, Cornelio Velasquez, 115
7. U K Trick, Albert Stall, Shane Sellers, 117
8. Aud, Tony Reinstedler, Mike Luzzi, 117
9. Beautiful America, Mike Hernandez, Jose Santos, 117
10. Gal O Gal, Vincent Blengs, John Velazquez, 122
11. Indy Five Hundred, Robert Barbara, Pat Day, 115
12. Ocean Drive, Todd Pletcher, Jerry Bailey, 119
13. Andover Lady, John Kimmel, Jerry Bailey, 115
14. Double Scoop, George Arnold, No Rider, 115