03/31/2010 11:00PM

Aqueduct roundup

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WHO'S HOT

Ramon Dominguez wrapped up his third consecutive inner-track title, finishing with 109 wins. He also surpassed the 4,000-win milestone March 19.

David Cohen, riding in New York for the first time, was a clear second with 87 victories. Anna Napravnik (42), C.C. Lopez (39), and apprentice Angel Serpa (36) rounded out the top five.

Interestingly, Dominguez and Cohen posted virtually identical win percentages when aboard the post-time favorite from Jan. 1 through March 27: Dominguez was 58 for 152 (38.1 percent), and Cohen was 38 for 97 (39.1 percent).

Richard Migliore closed the meet winning with four of five mounts last Saturday, with his only loss a fifth-place finish aboard favored Valid Sum. The Mig was 19 for 130 overall, with an average mutuel of $11.70.

Todd Pletcher won with both of his starters on the final program and took the training title with a 40-for-106 record that included 10 stakes wins. Since falling one win short to Linda Rice at Saratoga last summer, Pletcher has won the next three New York Racing Association meets.

Gary Contessa, who had won the last four winter titles and seven of the last 10, finished second with 36 wins. Third-place finisher Steve Asmussen was tops in win percentage with a 27-for-66 record, good for a strike rate of 40.9 percent. David Jacobson finished fourth with 25 wins, followed by a four-way tie among Mike Hushion, Rick Dutrow, Bruce Levine, and Bruce Brown, each with 21.

TRACK TRENDS

With no racing on Palm Sunday because of an antiquated law in New York, the meet concluded with an abbreviated four-day week.

Wednesday, March 24: There were no discernible trends, other than a sustained headwind in the 25 mph range as the fields left the backstretch and entered the far turn. As a result, second-quarter times in sprints, also known as turn times, were exceedingly slow: The fastest such split was 23.87 seconds.

Thursday, March 25: Three of the day's five two-turn routes were won wire to wire, but Inner Groove ($4), Ampart Ridge ($5), and Shot Gun Gal ($5.40) were all favorites, so it didn't appear as though anything unusual was taking place.

Overall, seven winners were among the first two betting choices, and the biggest-priced winner, Onota ($18), rallied from sixth in a field of nine.

Friday, March 26: Tempting to slap the speed-bias label on a day that produced five front-running winners, but a closer inspection reveals that all of them were favorites except for third-choice Hopeforthebest ($10).

Meanwhile, Classofsixtythree ($18) swept past rivals on the outside after trailing through the opening six furlongs of a one-mile allowance.

Saturday, March 27: According to the Racing Flow figures, where ratings of 150 or higher denote a closer-favoring track, their preliminary 211 spotlighted this as one of the meet's top four best days for off-the-pace runners, along with Dec. 5, Feb. 6, and March 4.

Triple A. Rating ($4.40) and Kamboo Man ($4.70) led their sprints all the way, but Triple A. Rating was allowed to get clear through fractions of 23.29 and 46.84 seconds, whereas Kamboo Man was all out to last in a woeful basement $7,500 claimer for nonwinners in six months.

The Roundhouse ($5.90 as part of an entry with Mister Triester) trailed by a dozen lengths down the backstretch and was still last by eight lengths turning for home.

In order to cash the late pick four worth $18,568, you needed a crystal ball to know that Brendan's Warrior ($105) and Lots of Stones ($23.80) would rally from out of the clouds.

Turf racing, weather permitting, was scheduled to get under way this week. Bear in mind that Aqueduct's sharp-turned course tends to become kinder to early-pace horses as the temporary rails are set farther out. When they are at zero, the edge usually belongs to the late runners.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Grade 1 racing returns with Saturday's Wood Memorial and Carter Handicap, the third and fourth legs of a $500,000-guaranteed all-stakes pick four that begins with the Bay Shore and Excelsior.

You can probably lock up the Wood by using two. Visually and against the clock, Awesome Act and Eskendereya - purchased as yearlings at Keeneland for $240,000 and $250,000 - have both shown signs they are for real.

It's noteworthy that Awesome Act received "rank" comments in four of five races overseas at 2, but soft-handed Julien Leparoux was able to settle him just enough in before the strapping chestnut blew the race apart with a devastating four-wide run around the far turn.

Draw a line through Eskendereya's Pro-Ride debacle in . He has improved with every start, climaxed by a Fountain of Youth performance that is the current benchmark for his generation.

The Carter, won last year by eventual sprint champion Kodiak Kowboy, is a barn-burner of a race in which a handful are closely matched. By Tuesday, I didn't really see much separating Munnings, Musket Man, and Warrior's Reward.

Based on the prospective starters Tuesday, I thought the Bay Shore and Excelsior came up pretty light, considering their $200,000 purses.

Next Saturday's 61st running of the Comely Stakes, a Grade 3 at a mile for 3-year-old fillies, was formerly worth $150,000 but has been cut to $100,000. It closed with 27 nominations.

HORSES TO WATCH

Lady Gracenote

Trainer: John Hertler

Last race: March 24, 2nd

Finish: 2nd by neck

Off a step slow, four wide on the far turn, led between calls in deep stretch, and came up just short when stretched out from six furlongs to a two-turn mile. Read the Footnotes filly has improved several lengths on the Beyer Speed Figure scale in each of her last two starts.

Tapitdar

Trainer: George Weaver

Last race: March 27, 5th

Finish: 3rd by 5 3/4

Stretched out from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles for his third career start and wound up 14 lengths behind after being checked and forced very wide into the clubhouse turn. He remained wide rallying to contention on the far turn and was within two lengths of the lead in midstretch before understandably tiring.

Too Tough Jake

Trainer: Daniel Conway Jr.

Last race: March 24, 9th

Finish: 2nd by 4 1/4

This first-time starter by Mayakovsky steadied at the break, steadied again on the far turn, split horses through a tight opening at the quarter pole, and split horses again late to get up for second in an eventful trip versus New York-bred maiden special weight sprinters.

Triple A. Rating

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Last race: March 27, 2nd

Finish: 1st by 3 3/4

Raced greenly in the early stages when bet to favoritism for his debut, but the gray 3-year-old colt by Value Plus quickly made amends by wiring maiden special weight sprinters under mild urging second out. His Beyer improved 18 points to an 88.