01/15/2004 12:00AM

Affectionately sees only one defection


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The field for Saturday's rescheduled Affection-ately Handicap remained virtually intact when it was redrawn Thursday, but possible favorite Message Red did land a less favorable post position in the Grade 3, $100,000 race for fillies and mares.

Message Red had post 2 last Saturday, when the Affectionately was originally scheduled, but the race was postponed after the card was scrapped due to extremely cold weather. This Saturday, she'll have to break from the outside post in the eight-horse field. River Cruise was the only horse not entered back from last week.

Message Red was a beaten favorite in her last two starts, including a 2 1/4-length loss to Affectionately contender Queen's Triomphe in the Montauk Handicap for New York-breds on Nov. 30. But a return to the inner track - where she is 3 for 6 - and a cutback to 1 1/16 miles should benefit Message Red.

Message Red missed the Ladies Handicap because of a virus, but her connections believe she has had ample time to recover and were grateful to have an extra week. Message Red blew out three furlongs in 37.10 seconds in company on Wednesday.

"When a horse is coming off a setback like she had - a virus, cough, cold, and fever - it's always nice to get a little more time," said Shaffick Mohammed, assistant to trainer Jimmy Jerkens. "She's going to be hard to beat. She's really doing well."

Trainer Tom Bush was also happy to get an extra week for Queen's Triomphe, who is making her fourth start in 10 weeks. While Queen's Triomphe has been effective at 1 1/8 miles and beyond for Bush, she was 5 for 6 at the Affectionately distance before coming to his barn.

The absence of River Cruise figures to be a plus for Golden Damsel, who looms as the main speed of the race. River Cruise looked like a possible rabbit for stablemate Cruise Along, who comes off a stretch-running victory in the restricted Geisha Handicap at Laurel Park, in which she earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure.

Now, Golden Damsel, who breaks from post 4 under Aaron Gryder, could get away with an easier lead. Gary Contessa, the trainer of Golden Damsel, also sends out Dancen in the Sun, who likes to race up close. But, Contessa said Dancen in the Sun cannot keep up early with Golden Damsel.

Austin's Mom is an upset candidate from the Allen Iwinski barn. Austin's Mom has been off for two months since winning two straight at Delaware Park, but is training well, according to Brad Wallace, assistant to Iwinski.

"She's the kind you've got to sit on for a little while," Wallace said, referring to her running style. "She's game - she finishes up."

Green Jeans and Consort Music complete the Affectionately field.

Overbrook entry in Aqueduct Cap

The day after Irv Favre died unexpectedly, his son Brett, the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, played one of the best games of his career, leading his team to a rout of the Oakland Raiders in a nationally televised Monday night game.

Peter Hutton, the New York-based assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, hopes something similar plays out Saturday when he saddles the Overbrook Farm entry of Boston Park and Big Country in the Grade 3, $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap. William T. Young, the owner of Overbrook Farm, died from an apparent heart attack Monday night. This is the first stakes race that Overbrook runners will compete in since.

"It'd be nice to give Mr. Young that final gesture," Hutton said when asked about the prospects of winning the Aqueduct.

Boston Park and Big Country will be coupled in the wagering, but they figure to go off at long odds despite their combined 3-for-3 record over the inner track. Boston Park won the Whirlaway Stakes last February and did not win again until he upset an allowance field over the inner oval in December. Boston Park is a son of the Overbrook champion Boston Harbor. Big Country, out of the Overbrook's champion mare Flanders, is coming off an entry-level allowance win on Dec. 19, when he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 97.

The only problem is that both colts have had success racing on the front end.

"It's a little bit more of a concern with Boston Park, because he gets awfully brave on the lead," Hutton said. "Big Country ran a hell of a race at Keeneland in the fall when he was last all the way, circled the field, and just got beat. The plan would be for Boston Park to get out there and get to the lead and Big Country to come late."

Lukas has won the Aqueduct three times, with Clever Secret (1988), Sports View (1991), and Formal Dinner (1992).

Rodriguez not seriously hurt in spill

Jockey Rudy Rodriguez said he suffered a bruised stomach as a result of a spill in Wednesday's second race but otherwise escaped serious injury.

Rodriguez tried to take Fabulist through a narrow opening along the rail entering the far turn, but the apparent hole closed quickly. Fabulist propped and unseated Rodriguez, who was then stepped on by a trailing horse, Dynastic Power.

Rodriguez was taken to nearby Jamaica Hospital, where he underwent X-rays and was released.

Double entries to be taken Monday

With Aqueduct now scheduled to run a live racing card next Wednesday, the racing office will take double entries on Monday. Races will be drawn for Wednesday and Thursday at that time.

Entries for Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday card will be taken Saturday. No entries will be taken Sunday.