02/27/2006 12:00AM

Delta Sea might not get ideal pace setup


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The lineup for the 1 1/2-mile race Wednesday at Aqueduct has a familiar feel, but the pace scenario could play out very differently than it did the last time several in the field met.

The optional claimer for New York-breds, which carries a purse of $44,000, attracted 10 runners, including five who contested a 1 5/8-mile race here Feb. 10. , the upset winner of that race at 8-1, returns, as does Cold Blow Lane, the pacesetting runner-up.

Bet down to 1-2, ran to the lead in an opening quarter of 23.64 seconds. He ran on gamely but was no match for Delta Sea, who spotted the field 25 lengths before rallying to a 5 1/4-length win with apprentice Isaac Barahona aboard.

"You are always at the mercy of the pace, and we had a pretty quick pace," said Jimmy Ferraro, Delta Sea's trainer. "We had a fresh horse last time, and that probably helped. The bug rider did a good job last time, so I figured we'd take advantage again of the weight."

A classic drop-back closer, Delta Sea might not find a vulnerable pacesetting target Wednesday, since trainer Bruce Levine takes the blinkers off Cold Blow Lane.

"I thought he was a little rank the other day. Maybe it will slow him down a little bit," Levine said of the equipment change. "He went a little fast the first quarter. It was a little quick, going a mile and five-eighths. I think that's what got him beat."

The marathon distance is an interesting departure from the usual menu of inner-track offerings.

"It gives everyone something to think about and a little more to handicap," said Levine. "It's good for the fans."

Bettors have a number of contenders to consider, including , who won his maiden last time in his 15th attempt. A 4-year-old gelding trained by Rodrigo Ubillo, Northern Storm drew off by 11 3/4 lengths against statebreds.

, a 5-year-old trained by Jeremiah Englehart, has done most of his racing at a mile and 70 yards at Finger Lakes. He finished third against open claimers for a $20,000 tag in his lone start at this meet.

Nohasslatdcastle went 1 5/8 miles in his last two starts, including the Gallant Fox Handicap here Dec. 31, and finished fourth in both races.