04/02/2008 11:00PM

Big A preparing for rain on Wood Memorial card


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – An ominous forecast for Friday and early Saturday could create wet conditions for Saturday’s Wood Memorial card at Aqueduct. But John Passero, New York Racing Association’s director of racing surfaces, is hopeful the main track will be in good shape for the most important day of the meet.

According to Weather.com, as much as two inches of rain could fall between late Thursday night and Saturday morning. Passero said that according to the weather service NYRA uses, the worst-case scenario calls for about one inch of precipitation.

Passero’s plan was to seal the main track tight following Thursday’s races so that any rain that fell overnight and Friday morning would not seep into the surface. Part of the plan involved not allowing training on the inside part of the main track Friday morning.

“We’re going to roll the [heck] out of it,” Passero said. “It should be tight enough to keep [the water] on top.

“If it’s raining during [Friday’s] card, that’s a different scenario. If it’s light and we keep it tight we should be fine.”

Over the past couple of years, the main track has been susceptible to washouts when too much rain gets into the cushion, thus creating cancellations. Two years ago, the main track was a sea of slop for the Wood, won by Bob and John.

The first turf race of the meet is carded for Saturday. Passero was noncommittal as to whether that race will remain on the turf at 1 1/16 miles. If it’s moved to the dirt, it will be run at one mile.

Curlin lays over in New York

Horse of the Year Curlin arrived at Belmont Park from Dubai shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday and was to serve a couple of days in quarantine here before being shipped to trainer Steve Asmussen’s Keeneland barn over the weekend.

Toby Sheets, Asmussen’s New York-based assistant, said Curlin appeared to have come out of his Dubai World Cup romp in good order.

“He came in excellent, looked great, his coat looks perfect, he’s very happy with himself,’’ Sheets said.

No plans have been announced for Curlin’s summer campaign, but it would seem unlikely that he would start before June, when his options would be the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 14 or the $400,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont on June 28. The Hollywood Gold Cup is also slated for June 28.

First Commandment tries the Wood

First Commandment, a New York-bred son of Deputy Commander, was a late addition to the Wood Memorial field. First Commandment has won his last two starts for Flying Zee Stables and trainer Carlos Martin.

“His numbers are good; for $750,000 you don’t get too many opportunities,’’ Martin said. “Him being by Deputy Commander I know he can get the distance, and it might rain; he should like that too.’’

First Commandment was beaten 15 lengths when he first raced in the mud in December, but Martin believes that poor effort was due more to the race’s six-furlong distance and the immaturity of the colt than to the track condition. He has since come back to win a pair of two-turn races, including a first-level statebred allowance race in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90.

Martin said one reason he decided to enter the Wood was the uncertainty surrounding probable favorite War Pass, who finished last in the Tampa Bay Derby last month.

“He may come back and destroy the field, or he may stop at the half-mile pole,’’ Martin said.

* There is an all-stakes pick four offered Saturday with a guaranteed pool of $400,000. The wager starts with race 7, the Bay Shore, and includes the Excelsior, Wood, and Carter.