04/23/2006 12:00AM

Aqueduct cancels after third race


Racing at Aqueduct was canceled Sunday after the third race when the jockeys voted unanimously not to ride, citing unsafe track conditions.

Approximately four inches of rain fell at Aqueduct between late Saturday and Sunday morning, which prompted management to cancel training Sunday morning.

Jockey Mike Luzzi, who finished second aboard Fighting Roy Kelly in the second race, said the track in the afternoon was "uneven" and had too much water on the inside.

"I wanted to go to the inside, but I couldn't because the track was pretty deep, a lot of water on it," he said. "I had to ride a different race than I wanted to."

It was the second time in 18 days that racing was canceled at Aqueduct after the third race. On April 5, when there was a pick-six carryover of $205,721 the riders said the sloppy main track was uneven and couldn't commit to riding the remainder of the card. When hearing that, management decided it was best to cancel the card.

On Sunday, however, the jockey's decision to ride caught management by surprise.

"It was a little surprising today, but we certainly respect their decision," said New York Racing Association senior vice president Bill Nader. "We've got a business to run, and it's a little bit frustrating, but we're not on the horses' backs."

John Passero, the track superintendent, was extremely upset by the jockey's decision.

"There's nothing wrong with the track, I mean nothing," said Passero, who has worked as a track superintendent for 45 years. " I've never been so disappointed. If this is the standard they're going to quit every time that's the way I feel about it."

Both the Times Square and the Park Avenue divisions of the New York Stallion Stakes _ both worth $100,000 _ were postponed until next Sunday, closing day. Aqueduct will run 10 races on each day of closing weekend.

There will be a pick-six carryover of $43,888 heading into Wednesday's card.