03/24/2010 11:00PM

Aqueduct roundup

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WHO'S HOT

John Morrison

It had been a relatively quiet winter for Morrison until last week, when he saddled the winner of race 6 on back-to-back days:

Lionish ($40.80) stretched out from six furlongs to a mile and 70 yards and added Lasix for her second career start, and she ran down 2-5 shot Divine Majesty in the final furlong of a New York-bred maiden claimer.

Twenty-four hours later, Seeing Clearly ($29.20), ostensibly pointing to a turf race in her first start as a 6-year-old, staged a last-to-first rally that got her past 3-1 shot Diva's Gold in deep stretch of a $12,500 claiming route.

Ramon Dominguez

After sweeping every 2009 New York Racing Association meet and amassing the second-highest win total (376) on the circuit, behind Steve Cauthen's 433 in 1977, Dominguez could be listed here every week. He gets props for reaching the 4,000-victory plateau at the relatively young age of 33, aboard Fortyninegeorgest ($7.30) last Friday.

Dominguez entered the day at 3,998 and promptly won the first three races on the card to reach and surpass the milestone.

WHO'S NOT

Angel Serpa

The meet-leading apprentice was handed a 30-day suspension for "gross careless riding," after his mount, Wicked Climb, came in and bumped Freudian Storm and Jose Espinoza into the rail approaching the turn of last Saturday's third race.

Espinoza lost his irons and was fortunate to stay aboard Freudian Storm, who reportedly suffered a concussion in the incident.

Serpa, who began this week serving a five-day suspension for careless riding at Philadelphia Park, is eligible to ride again Sunday, April 25, closing day of Aqueduct's spring meet.

TRACK TRENDS

A rundown of last week's action:

Wednesday, March 17: The inner track played honestly on the St. Patrick's Day program, with seven sprints and two routes won by a mix of running styles. Perhaps because it had been packed down by torrential rains the previous weekend, the surface was lightning-fast, and a backstretch tailwind sped up early fractions in sprints all the more.

Thursday, March 18: The spring-like southerly winds off Jamaica Bay (backstretch tailwind) continued, but the surface wasn't as quick as the previous day, and there were no path or running-style trends.

Friday, March 19: Though there were five wire-to-wire winners, it's fair to say there was no running-style bias. Persian Honey ($6) kicked things off as win No. 3,999 for Dominguez, who stole the six-furlong dash in broad daylight by putting the mare on an uncontested lead through a first quarter-mile in 24.23 seconds. She remained clear on the turn through a second quarter in 24.25 and sprinted home in 23.91 as five rivals gave hapless pursuit.

Dominguez had a similarly easy time of things with Rovic's Wealth ($5.20), who was clear through early splits of 24.93 and 49.61 and repulsed a token challenge at the quarter pole to remain clear as winner No. 4,001.

Horses were also able to win from off the pace; the aforementioned Seeing Clearly was 14 lengths off the early lead before winning the sixth.

Saturday, March 20: Nine sprints on a 10-race card produced a mix of winning running styles. The lone route was the Kings Point Stakes, won by Icabad Crane ($3.50), the recipient of a perfect inside-out trip to notch his first victory since the 2008 Federico Tesio.

Sunday, March 21: After the cancellation of the opener because of a horseman's boycott (You go, guys!), speed appeared to have an edge in sprints, with three of four races won in front-running style.

Closers had the edge in the four routes, with three winners rallying from the rear half of their fields, including last-to-first upsets by Been a Pleasure ($17.60) and Hard Iron ($26.20).

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Saturday's 139th running of the Ladies, brought back this year after a one-year hiatus, was expected to be headed by Tidal Dance, a perfect-trip winner of the Affectionately when last seen Jan. 17.

On Wednesday, the main track is scheduled to open for a 19-day spring meet. Of course, next Saturday is Wood Memorial Day, which will feature an 11-race card that includes an all-stakes $500,000 guaranteed pick four on races 7-10: the Bay Shore, Excelsior, Wood, and Carter, with television coverage on NBC from 5 to 6 p.m. Eastern.

The 86th running of the Wood - a Grade 1, $750,000 race that has spawned 20 Kentucky Derby winners - will be headed by Fountain of Youth winner Eskendereya and Gotham winner Awesome Act. The runner-ups from those races, Jackson Bend and Yawanna Twist, are also expected.

The Wood will be the third leg of the $500,000 pick four anchored by the 110th running of the Carter, a Grade 1, $250,000 sprint at seven furlongs won last year by eventual sprint champion Kodiak Kowboy. Past winners include two-time Cigar Mile winner Congaree; sprint champs Artax and Housebuster; and the immortal Forego, who took back-to-back runnings in 1974-75.

The sequence begins with the 50th running of the Bay Shore, a $200,000 Grade 3 for 3-year-old sprinters at seven furlongs.

The Excelsior, a $200,000 route at 1 1/8 miles for older males, is the second leg.

Giant Moon, last year's Excelsior winner who has been plagued throughout his career by foot problems, recently returned to training for trainer Richard Schosberg, An Al Fried homebred, he hasn't been out since the Kingston on soft turf last May.

"He's moving better now than he was all of last year," said Schosberg, who is looking to bring Giant Moon back for an April start, and then "make a splash" in the older handicap ranks.

PET PEEVES OF THE WEEK

* From this day forward, can we all just agree to refer to Lentenor without referencing him as "the full brother of the ill-fated Barbaro?"

We know, already - we know. Dear God, at least let him win a stakes before bringing it up again.

* Why has the New York Racing Association insisted on showcasing its worst races in the $250,000-guaranteed late pick four on Saturdays, and/or carding a maiden special as blind legs?

Right now, this is the showcase window for the last vestiges of the best NYRA can muster. Do the vast majority of the races really have to be for the slowest slugs in captivity?

Before a merciful washout March 13, recall the best last-out Beyer Speed Figure in the first leg of the day's sequence belonged to Smarteralex, a career maiden who was 0 for 44 (now 0 for 45).

Last week's sequence, which squeaked by the minimum with about $280,000, was anchored by a maiden sprint that included Tonga and Zealous Boy, a couple of first-time starters coming off bullet half-mile works.

That Zealous Boy ($25.80) won it and Tonga ran fourth at 12-1 is beside the point. Whenever maiden races with fast-working new shooters are carded as blind items in multi-race exotics, I - and a bevy of reasonably cautious players nationwide - invoke discretion as the better part of valor and pass the darned thing by.

Just saying.

HORSES TO WATCH

Justifier

Trainer: Tom Albertrani

Last race: March 17, 4th

Finish: 1st by 1/2

On the sidelines for 14 months, this 4-year-old Pulpit colt warmed up impressively and ran to his looks, sustaining a long, last-to-first rally to get up in time versus maiden special weight sprinters.

Monte Carlo

Trainer: Tony Dutrow

Last race: March 17, 8th

Finish: 1st by a head

This gelding by Smoke Glacken returned from a nine-month absence and edged 1-2 shot Out of Respect to take his second-level New York-bred allowance condition with a Beyer Speed Figure (85) that was 14 points above his previous top.

Sourceofthenile

Trainer: Mike Hushion

Last race: March 18, 4th

Finish: 1st by 7 1/4

He did the expected with blinkers added, drowning $25,000 New York-bred maidens off the class drop third time out. What no one could've foreseen was the huge pace figure: This Gold Token gelding ran the fastest half-mile split on the card and kept right on going.

Toulouse Lautrec

Trainer: Bruce Levine

Last race: March 19, 8th

Finish: 4th by 2 1/2

He broke in front but readily relinquished the advantage and was hemmed in along the rail for most of the way as Mt. Glittermore set up shop on an easy lead and wired a high-end optional claiming sprint.