04/12/2007 12:00AM

Aqueduct cancels Thursday card


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Racing was canceled at Aqueduct after the second race on Thursday after the jockeys refused to ride, citing unsafe track conditions.

Heavy rains turned the track into a sea of slop prior to Thursday's opener. After riding the first race over a sealed sloppy track, the jockeys met as a group and decided to ride the second. It was after the second race that several riders said the track was uneven and had washed out in several spots. They informed management they would not ride the remainder of the card.

"Just very inconsistent, a lot of wash-out spots that you couldn't even get close to the rail," said Mike Smith, who finished last aboard Four Saratoga in the second. "The riders who rode the first thought it was okay in the first and didn't really like it in the second. You could get a horse or two that's going to handle it, as you saw, and then you're going to get five or six that are eased; that's just not horse racing. The horse I rode didn't handle it at all. She was having a lot of trouble with it, hitting some spots that I didn't care to have to go through again. We chose the safer route."

Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. rode both races and said the track condition worsened from the first to the second.

"There was a lot more water in the second race," he said. "It wasn't as firm as it was in the first."

Arroyo said the track was "very uneven on the backside."

John Passero, the director of racing surfaces for the New York Racing Association, said he walked the track at 12:30 - 30 minutes prior to the opener - and felt confident the track was in good condition.

The cancellation further accentuated problems with the main track that first surfaced last fall. During last fall meet, two full cards were canceled due to wet tracks and three more cards were transferred to the inner track. Eight races of another nine-race card were canceled due to high winds.

Racing was scheduled to resume Friday and the main-track meeting is scheduled to continue through April 29.