03/21/2002 12:00AM

Aqueduct shutdown helps local handle

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The cancellation of racing at Aqueduct on Wednesday helped Oaklawn Park reach its highest offtrack handle of the meet, as out-of-state patrons bet $4,537,572 on the 10-race card. Another $623,598 was bet on the program by the ontrack crowd of 5,883, bringing Oaklawn's total handle on its races Wednesday to $5,161,170.

The previous offtrack best this meet was reached on Feb. 16, when Oaklawn handled $4,189,228 on nine races, which were delayed because of a tote malfunction. The delay forced the track to cancel its final race.

In addition to the cancellation of Aqueduct, Oaklawn also benefited from the fact that Fair Grounds was dark, as usual, on Wednesday.

"There were fewer pieces of the pie to divvy up," said Bobby Geiger, director of wagering and simulcasting at Oaklawn. "All that money that was going to be wagered on Aqueduct shifted."

Oaklawn has seen double-digit gains in offtrack handle this meet, which has lead to three purse increases, the latest on Saturday.

City Zone romps again

When City Zone wins, she wins big. The filly, who won a $10,000 conditioned claiming race by 17 1/4 lengths March 14, wheeled back on six days' rest Wednesday and romped again, this time defeating a field of $20,000 conditioned claimers by 12 1/4 lengths.

She won both races for owner Turf Express, Inc., and leading trainer Cole Norman, but was claimed Wednesday and will make her next start for leading owner Hwy. 1 Racing Stable, and trainer Stanley Roberts.

City Zone's 17 1/4-length romp was the biggest win margin of the meet, and the biggest win margin ever for a horse trained by Norman. Last fall, she won her maiden by nine lengths at Hoosier Park. City Zone is a daughter of Wild Zone and the Carson City mare City Slick. She was one of seven claims Wednesday.

Cold keeps 'Monster' from Rebel

A cold will keep Bay Monster, who was expected to start in the Grade 3, $100,000 Rebel on Saturday, from starting in the race.

Trainer Steve Wren scoped him after his morning gallop Thursday morning, and decided not to enter. "He had a little bit of mucus. There's no use running if you're not 100 percent," said Wren, who won the Rebel in 1999 with Etbauer.

Bay Monster finished fourth in the second division of the $75,000 Southwest on March 2, and last year, was beaten a neck by Repent in a maiden race in Kentucky.

* Miss Romeo, who has been runner-up to two of the most impressive 3-year-old filly winners at the meet, is the speed from the rail in the ninth race, a six-furlong entry-level allowance worth $29,000.

* Every jockey in the second race at Oaklawn on Thursday was overweight. The bottom claimer for fillies and mares drew nine, with the weights at entry time ranging from 103 pounds to 113. The winner was Shaws ($4), who was three pounds over at 116 for jockey Rodney Trader.

* Jockey Luis Martinez has pulled a ligament in his left shoulder and will be out for the remainder of the Oaklawn meet, which runs through April 13.