03/28/2007 11:00PM

The Big A hosts a big day at last


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Maybe the inner track should be considered Aqueduct's "main" track. After all, it's the one that is mainly used.

The "winter" meet actually began back on Nov. 29, so it included the last three weeks of autumn. This year, it was extended an extra week, and Saturday's final program comes on the 10th day of spring.

The idea is to use the outer track as little as possible. To recall, the inner-track standings, which include a seesaw battle between Eibar Coa and Ramon Dominguez for the riding title, do not include an impromptu three-day stretch when the inner track was pressed into service last Nov. 17-19 so the outer track would be usable for the last meaningful stakes of the season. To recall, heavy rains last Nov. 9 forced a cancellation the next day (even though it was 68 degrees and sunny), because the outer track needs refurbishing and the base deteriorates when it takes on excessive moisture. This is unfortunate for a surface scheduled for use in spring and fall.

Racing on the outer track this spring has been whittled down to a grand total of 19 days, assuming no torrential April showers create another emergency. Here's hoping the weather cooperates leading into next Saturday, because nothing says spring like an all-stakes pick four comprising the Bay Shore, Wood Memorial, Carter, and Excelsior. A week out, here are some developing storylines for handicappers, in race order:

Bay Shore: Like the majority of races at seven furlongs here, the field figures to include a mix of sprinters and routers meeting in no-man's land.

Among probable starters, Bill Place raced at six furlongs through the winter, including a win in the Jimmy Winkfield. Wollaston Bay upset Bill Place in February at six furlongs, but tired after setting the pace in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham. Hobbitontherocks, was second to Bill Place in December, and has been freshened after winning two allowance sprints at Philly Park, including one at seven-eighths.

The new shooter to watch is the unbeaten Les Grands Trois, a Bobby Frankel-trained colt who won his debut by nine lengths in July and returned to Santa Anita this month with a fast 6 1/2-furlong allowance win.

Wood Memorial: At this writing there were five definite starters and two others listed possible for this key Kentucky Derby prep at 1 1/8 miles. The marquee players are Circular Quay and Nobiz Like Shobiz.

Circular Quay was impressive winning the Louisiana Derby, but the deep closer got a terrific setup when the relatively inexperienced Ketchikan established a too-fast pace and left himself vulnerable in the endless stretch at Fair Grounds.

The Wood marks the first race beyond 1 1/16 miles for Circular Quay, so an edge for Nobiz Like Shobiz could be his winning experience at 1 1/8 miles in the Remsen. The two big things to watch with this horse are whether he runs more professionally with blinkers on after showing some immaturity at Gulfstream, and whether he breaks through with some development on an otherwise static line of Beyer Speed Figures (96-92-97-98-94).

Carter: Frankel's one-three finishers from the San Carlos, Latent Heat and Ramsgate, are under consideration. So are the first two finishers from the General George, the Richard Dutrow Jr.-trained Silver Wagon, and Ah Day, based at Laurel for the legendary King Leatherbury.

The pace is likely to be disputed between Attila's Storm, who comes off a win in the Toboggan but whose most recent figures have tailed off, and Keyed Entry, the beaten favorite in last year's Wood who has never lost a sprint.

Sidelined for seven months after tiring in the Dwyer last July, Keyed Entry returned at Gulfstream in mid-winter for a front-running win in the Deputy Minister.

Excelsior: Among five probable starters and two listed as possible, this 1 1/8-mile route for older horses, in addition to giving figuremakers a good line on the Wood, will likely boil down to the Grade 2 winners Corinthian and Magna Graduate.

Corinthian's last four first-place finishes have come at Gulfstream, but his maiden win was on Aqueduct's main track. He has shown signs of breaking through to the upper echelon in his 4-year-old season.