01/09/2003 12:00AM

Debunking myths of the inner track


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Conventional wisdom said the warm weather that enveloped the New York area Thursday would have been the last thing Aqueduct track superintendent Jerry Porcelli would have wanted for his winterized inner track.

Many believed the near 50-degree temperatures would only turn an already wet surface into chocolate pudding, perhaps forcing the cancellation of the card. But, Porcelli was all smiles Thursday morning.

"It gives you a false sense of security when you're kind of locked into a cold thing because the moisture is still in the track,'' Porcelli said before Thursday's opener. "I want to get the moisture out of it. I could lose 2 to 3 percent [moisture content] today where if it stays frozen I might lose 1 percent. I was really happy. Now, if we can get some wind with it....''

Aqueduct's inner track appeared to dry out as Thursday's nine-race card went along and there is hope the track could be fast for the weekend. There hasn't been a fast track at Aqueduct since Dec. 29, when the last seven races were run over a fast surface. The last full card to be run over a fast track was Dec. 21.

Beginning Christmas Day, the New York area has endured plenty of snow and rain. The Dec. 26 card was canceled when chunks of ice were spotted in part of the track. It was the third cancellation of the winter.

The majority of races the last two weeks have been run over a sealed track labeled as sloppy, muddy, or good. According to Porcelli, the percentage of moisture content determines how the track is labeled. A moisture content of 12 percent or lower means the track is deemed fast. A moisture content of 12 to 15 percent constitutes a good track; 15-18 percent is muddy; and anything more than 18 percent is sloppy.

After Thursday, temperatures were expected to drop back below freezing. But if the track dries out by then, it won't be a problem. The base of the inner track is stone dust, which, according to Porcelli, enables it to handle freeze and thaw cycles better.

Many people believe the track would dry quicker if it were left open during the day rather than sealed. Porcelli explained that's not the case.

"When you're pressing it like this you're getting the cushion as dry as you could as if you harrowed it,'' he said. "The only thing you're not getting dry is the base. But, the stone dust base does not hold as much moisture as clay base. So it's not as much of a factor on a stone dust base to harrow it up as it would be on the [main] track. The main track would dry quicker if you harrowed it.''

Last Sunday, Porcelli did open it up for the first two races. But at the request of the jockeys the track was sealed for the remainder of the card.

"It was a ruddy, inconsistent, deep track and a lot of horses stumbled pulling up,'' jockey Richard Migliore said. "As soon as the track was sealed, we didn't have any of that. We're talking a light seal where the surface is more consistent throughout. It's very unsettling and uncomfortable as a rider to have horses bobbling and bogging down when you're trying to go fast and straight. That's the worse thing for the horse . . . the inconsistent footing.''

Perkins to skip Capossela

Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. will not shoot for a four-peat in the Fred "Cappy'' Capossela Stakes Jan. 20.

Perkins did nominate the unbeaten Unforgettable Max to the six-furlong Capossela, but instead will try to stretch that horse out in either an allowance race or the Whirlaway on Feb. 8.

"We think he'll go long,'' Perkins said. "It's the time of year to get running long.''

Unforgettable Max won an entry-level allowance race on Dec. 15, defeating Philadelphia Jim, who came back to win the Dancing Count Stakes at Laurel Park Jan. 1.

* Dennis Carr broke an 0-for- 47 skid dating back to Nov. 27 when he guided longshot Napoleon Solo ($55.20) to victory in Thursday's fifth race.