03/05/2013 2:27PM

Aqueduct: Easter Gift won't mind wet track in Thursday allowance

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Alyssa Spakowski/Equi-Photo
Easter Gift ships up from Florida for Thursday's allowance race at Aqueduct.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Despite an ominous forecast, there are signs that spring is on the horizon.

This is the last week of racing over Aqueduct’s inner track; the clocks move ahead one hour Sunday morning; and a south Florida shipper heads the allowance feature on Thursday’s nine-race program at Aqueduct.

Easter Gift, a graded-stakes-winning 3-year-old of 2012, heads a contentious, albeit compact, five-horse field entered in a $71,000 third-level allowance race going one mile.

A son of Hard Spun, Easter Gift won the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx Racing last September at 3, and earlier in the summer was beaten only a neck in the Grade 3 Pegasus at Monmouth. Transferred from Nick Zito to Chad Brown following his 3-year-old season, Easter Gift was beaten a length in a similar spot as this Jan. 17 at Gulfstream. That race was run around one turn whereas Thursday’s race is run around two turns.

“The horse ran very well, but he was running in spots it looked like,” Brown said. “I wasn’t sure he was completely in the bridle the entire race. He came out of the race good and I wanted to get him around two turns. I felt he’d be more comfortable so that’s a big reason to send him back to New York.”

Easter Gift, who will be ridden by Rajiv Maragh, has won three races over wet tracks and is likely to encounter an off surface Thursday with a mixture of rain and snow in the forecast.

Brown also sends out Jaguar Paw, who in his first start for Brown won a second-level allowance Jan. 9 over the inner track by a head over Big Business, who has finished first or second in his last nine starts. Jaguar Paw has recorded two of his three wins over the inner track. Irad Ortiz Jr. rides from the rail.

Spa City Fever was beaten three-quarters of a length by 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice in this same condition Jan. 30 and looms the one to catch under apprentice Keiber Coa. Jose Ortiz, with one week remaining as an apprentice, rides Summer Sunset, who has won two straight for Bruce Levine.

Kings Village, who has been racing in $5,000 claimers at Penn National, helped fill out this field.

In race 7, Now and Then, scratched from Saturday’s $400,000 Gotham Stakes, tries two turns for the first time in a first-level allowance race going a mile and 70 yards.

Now and Then, a son of Tiznow, won his debut going six furlongs Jan. 20. He is a half-brother to Seventh Street, who successfully stretched out from six furlongs to a mile over the inner track four years ago en route to becoming a Grade 1 winner.

“We don’t think any less of him,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He’s had only one race going six furlongs. We really like him. He’s very talented. This makes sense.”

Now and Then will have to face three-time winner Go Get the Basil, who successfully stretched out around two turns in a starter allowance race Jan. 31. This New York-bred son of Andromeda’s Hero is 2 for 2 over wet surfaces.

The Truth and K G, Hoofing Cat, and Alcolite round out the field.