01/28/2010 12:00AM

Aqueduct roundup

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WHAT'S HOT

Aqueduct horses, baby!

Okay, the racing is on the cheap side during the dead of winter (who knew $7,500 basement claimers came in so many varieties?), but get this: Aqueduct's inner dirt track has been the stage for the fastest horses in the nation - and not just one or two, a whole slew!

Ripped from the of DRF's Leaderboard page:

The Paul Pompa Jr.-owned duo of Understatement (115) and Well Positioned (107) are currently the fastest older horses in the land based on their one-two finish in the .

At this writing, the only other older male router with a triple-digit figure is Redding Colliery, a typically late-blooming 4-year-old colt by Mineshaft, who recorded a 100 advancing through second-level allowance conditions.

Right now, the fastest 3-year-old is Eightyfiveinafifty, who ran off the screen winning a maiden sprint with a 105 on Jan. 9 and is scheduled to stretch out in next week's Whirlaway.

The only 3-year-old router to reach triple-digits thus far is Tempted to Tapit, who put blinkers on for a front-running maiden win in a two-turn mile, good for a figure of 100 that was several lengths faster than last Saturday's (90) at Fair Grounds.

Finally, the fastest sprinter in the U.S. of A. is Wall Street Wonder, who made a shambles of last week's Paumonok with a meet-fastest six furlongs in 1:09.40 that came back at 109.

"We knew the horse was up to running against these types of horses . . . but he kind of blew our minds," said trainer John Terranova, who hinted the 4-year-old may have run himself right out of New York. "The owner wanted to keep him East this winter. I'm not sure what we'll do next. We'll see how he comes out of this and let him tell us."

Joe Musarro

We told you about him last week, and the apprentice gets a second straight mention after winning with Even Frisky ($88.50) and Indymine ($26) last week to move within one of his 35th career victory and a promotion to five-pound bug status. He also came up a golden rail to get second with Next Day, a 51-1 shot that completed a $154 exacta behind 7-5 standout Mighty Morris.

TRACK TRENDS

The inside was the place to be during a four-day period, Wednesday, Jan. 20, through Saturday, Jan. 23, and while the rail was still good Sunday, Jan. 24, horses racing outside were on equal footing.

Last week's racing was bookended by a pair of running-style biases - one favoring early speed on Jan. 20 and one favoring closers Jan. 24.

Eight of the nine winners on the Jan. 20 program were never worse than second at any call, and five of those led throughout. The lone winner from off the pace was Royal Vessel ($18.60), who trailed down the backstretch of a mile route and scored off a subtle class-drop from an open $10,000 claimer into one for nonwinners of three races lifetime.

Independence War ($5.50) came from next to last to win the Jan. 24 opener and was followed by several more deep closers: Four Shore ($5.10) made up nine lengths, Roma Di Notte ($8.60) was 11 lengths behind at the quarter pole and won by nearly six lengths, and Good Law ($22.80) was seventh of nine through the opening six furlongs before getting up in deep stretch under Rosie Napravnik.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Saturday's 70th running of the Correction Stakes drew a field of just five older filly-and-mare sprinters, so it is carded as race 3, outside the pick six and the $250,000 guaranteed late pick four. Three of the five - Fascinatin' Rhythm, Heaven's Voice, and What Time It Is - are based in Maryland at Laurel, Bowie, and Fair Hill, respectively.

The locals are Hold That Prospect, who has been freshened up for eight weeks since setting the pace on a closer-favoring track in the Garland of Roses opening weekend, and no-hoper Bright Halo, a router who went 4 for 4 in Uruguay in 2008 but has since been badly beaten on three continents.

The Correction features an intriguing pace scenario where the two mares who do their best running with a clear early lead - What Time It Is and Hold That Prospect - are drawn on the rail and on the outside. They are also a combined 12 for 23 at six furlongs; the others have yet to win at the distance.

Heaven's Voice lost the place late to Fascinatin' Rhythm in the Squan Song at seven furlongs Dec. 5, but she's got a big chance to turn the tables. Not only is Heaven's Voice favored by the cutback in distance, but trainer Chris Grove does excellent work with short-layoff types, and it appears as though he has taught this filly how to rate. Another factor in her favor: Since the Squan Song, Fascinatin' Rhythm shows one workout at five furlongs. Meanwhile, Heaven's Voice worked a mile Jan. 10, followed last Saturday by a bullet half-mile in 45.80 seconds. Among the 28 others to work at the distance that morning at Bowie, the next-fastest time was 48 seconds flat!

In the condition book for Sunday is the $60,000 Coyote Lakes, an overnight stakes for marathoners at 1 5/8 miles.

Next Saturday's feature is the Whirlaway, the first 100-grander of the year in New York. Among the 25 3-year-olds nominated to the 1 1/16-mile Whirlaway are nine trained by Todd Pletcher, along with the aforementioned Eightyfiveinafifty, and Peppi Knows, who has been training well at his Penn National base since a runner-up finish in the .

RIDE OF THE WEEK

The most improved rider in New York from this time last year - and it's not even close - is Jackie Davis, whose father, Robbie Davis, was among the top three riders on the circuit six times during an 11-year stretch, from 1983-93.

For proof, go to your replay source and watch her ride on Mitchell Park ($16.40) in the seventh race Jan. 21, a 10-horse claiming sprint on a day when the rail was a veritable conveyor belt to the winner's circle.

As a torrid pace developed up front, Davis allowed Mitchell Park to settle into stride about seven lengths off the lead. Still well back after a half-mile, she cut the corner and came through a pinhole opening on the fence to get past some stragglers just inside the quarter pole, and then proceeded to thread the needle again inside the leaders in deep stretch to prevail by a half-length.

I could name a roomful of big-rep riders who wouldn't have gone through either one of those openings, but that's another story for another day.

HORSES TO WATCH

Hour Glass

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Last race: Jan. 24, 8th

Finish: 1st by 3 1/4

Purchased by Mill House and turned over to Todd Pletcher toward the end of 2009, she returned from a freshening to make her 4-year-old debut vs. second-level allowance sprinters, and came through on the rail to win going away, earning her fourth consecutive Beyer Speed Figure in the 90s.

Manteca

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Last race: Jan. 23, 8th

Finish: 2nd by 5 1/4

Making his first start since a runner-up finish in the Kings Point vs. multiple stakes winner Wishful Tomcat nine months earlier, this 5-year-old New York-bred raced three wide around both turns while pressing the pace, and finished a clear second in open second-level allowance company.

Pay in Kind

Trainer: Rick Violette Jr.

Last race: Jan. 21, 1st

Finish: 1st by 1/2

On a day when the rail was golden, this veteran returned from a 10-month layoff with a last-to-first run while widest of all through the lane to beat mid-level claimers. Dating back to December of 2008, the gray 7-year-old sprinter has now won 4 of his last 5 starts on the inner track.

Rule By Night

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Last race: Jan. 23, 4th

Finish: 1st by 7 1/4

A $200,000 purchase as a yearling, this colt by Malibu Moon was second to a 2-5 winner when unveiled on Dec. 26, and improved sharply (23 Beyer points) to graduate under a hand ride with a respectable Beyer Figure of 85.