12/13/2007 3:00AM

Out at First


Sorry not to have weighed in on Wednesday's double-carry at Aqueduct, where a $205k pool and two days off attracted $851k in fresh bets, but I got a late start and really wouldn't have been too helpful. I didn't have a good feel for several of the races and made a tiny play that didn't use either of the first two winners. Had I played more heavily, I don't think I would have collected more than a few rotten $135 consos. I might have added Lion's Maddy ($16.00) in the opener, but I was against Ricardo A. ($6.40) off two straight bad races and an outside draw.

The $12,922 payoff was healthy and it looks like about half of the 50 or so winners singled Wishful Tomcat in the finale, since the next shortest will-pay was $28,560. (Only two others were under $100k.) Since Wishful Tomcat led every step of the way and widened his margin to 17 3/4 lengths at the finish, it wasn't exactly a stressful last leg for those who needed him or a tough beat for anyone who went deeper or left him out.

The snow is supposed to start at noon tomorrow, turning to sleet by 4 p.m., so if the jockeys don't cancel, it could be a hurry-up card with accelerated post times. At least we don't have to stay up all night handicapping a $690,000 triple carryover only to see the card scrapped after the early double.

--NYRA finally announced its 2008 stakes schedule Wednesday, 19 days before its as-yet-unrenewed franchise expires. The biggest changes involved shuffling the major summer grass races to create better spacing among them: the Man o'War has been shifted from September to July, replacing the now-cancelled Bowling Green, and the Sword Dancer has been moved from the third to fourth Saturday of the Saratoga meet, where it will be run the same day as the Alabama. The biggest dirt change is that the orphaned Brooklyn Handicap has been lengthened from 9 to 12 furlongs and moved from September to June, making it an early showcase for candidates for the new Breeders' Cup Marathon.

The moves look like smart ones, with one weird side effect: The featured race on the third Saturday of Saratoga will now be the ungraded $100k Yaddo Handicap for statebred turf fillies. A Saratoga Saturday without a Grade 1 seems vaguely sacrilegious. It will be interesting to see if other stakes races, or perhaps an additional folding-chair or t-shirt giveaway, are added to that Aug. 9 program.