12/04/2003 12:00AM

Doing homework while on holiday


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Spent the Thanksgiving holiday upstate in my new digs just outside Saratoga Springs, but thanks to the miracle of cable television I was able to keep track of the main track's final days. Good thing, because there was a lot going on:

Nov. 22: Seldom will handicappers encounter such a strong, consistent trend in favor of horses from outside posts and paths. These were the post positions for the winning trifecta combinations of eight races on dirt: 6-10-7, 9-8-4, 5-2-6, 5-3-9, 11-6-1, 8-12-4, 10-8-4, 12-2-8.

In other words, among the 24 in-the-money finishers there was only one rail horse able to crack the top three - Genevil, who finished third in a statebred allowance for fillies after breaking next-to-last. Moreover, only three others from posts 2 and 3 got a share.

Genevil was one of many rail horses on this card who was away slow, along with: Center, who refused; Live for Today (broke eighth of 12); Barely Perfect (broke sixth of eight); Sixers Fan (broke fifth of 10); Forgotten Promise (12th of 13); Sea Squirrel (last of 10); and Runaway Russy (last of 12).

Other horses whose inside trips may be either upgraded or forgiven entirely in the future included: Gratiaen (1st race), 10th as the 5-2 second choice; and Saint Stephen (7th race), who was trying dirt for the first time, and found his best stride belatedly on the rail.

Nov. 23: If you don't like the racetrack around here, just wait a minute. That was the operative mind-set 24 hours later, on a card dominated by inside speed. The trend was shouted out to observant trip takers in the opener, when Spooky Mulder, a useful $30,000 claiming sprinter, sped clear early and rocketed six furlongs in 1:08.54.

Given the favorable circumstances, it might be wise to take Smokey Glacken's front-running triumph in the six-furlong Valley Stream Stakes with a grain of salt, especially since even-money favorite Forest Music was caught wide and totally empty through the stretch, while the winner negotiated the last quarter in a pokey 26.14 seconds.

Nov. 27: On this Thanksgiving Day program, Bill Mott was probably thankful to have Stockholder in the barn, because his romping win against older third-level allowance milers in 1:34.93 stamped him as one of the top 3-year-olds currently in training. After a runner-up finish sprinting seven furlongs in his seasonal debut in July, Stockholder has stretched out to win all four of his fast-track races by a combined 20 lengths.

By way of comparison, Abreeze, whose two previous wins this year earned Beyers of 108 and 105 in the spring, wired classified allowance milers earlier on this card in 1:36.47.

Meanwhile, in the featured Fall Highweight Handicap, Bossanova continued to get away with murder. Racing on a track where every dirt winner led or raced close-up early, Bossanova was allowed to get clear through a 22.88 first quarter, and had just enough left to stave off Papua late. Papua, by the way, went 4 for 4 on the inner track last winter, and is back in top form after a five-month layoff.

A race later, to hammer home the point about Bossanova's dream set-up, Threat of Victory wired $12,500 claimers at the same distance with a first quarter in 22.16 seconds.

Nov. 28: As for what happened during the first six races, trip handicappers haven't the foggiest, because the track was enveloped by one of the thickest, most sustained fogs seen at The Big A in years.

From what could be seen from the head-on camera shots, all of the fog-shrouded winners were on or near the early lead, at least around the far turn. Bo Barley won the nightcap as the lone winner on the program to make any significant headway from off the pace.

And considering that Bo Barley's $12,500 claiming mile featured a 45.81 half-mile split, Randaroo and Beauty Halo had things all their own way in the one-mile Top Flight Handicap, after leading the pack through a 46.48 half en route to a one-two finish.

Nov. 29: If there has been a better horse at Aqueduct than Congaree during the past 20 years, his name escapes me. On a track that was playing, according to my home-made variant, roughly a full second slower than par, he earned his second straight 120 Beyer in the Cigar Mile with a thoroughly dominating performance, drawing away from a game but outgunned Midas Eyes to give Jerry Bailey a sweep of the three stakes, along with Ashado in the Demoiselle and Read the Footnotes in the Remsen.

Read the Footnotes was just as dominating in winning the Remsen, and it's a reasonable assertion that the two most impressive performances by 2-year-olds in New York this fall were turned in by New York-bred colts, the other belonging to Friends Lake, who won the one-mile Sleepy Hollow at Belmont with authority. Remove runner-up Master David from the mix, and Read the Footnotes's margin of victory over West Virginia - also a New York-bred - would have been nearly 15 lengths.

Nov. 30: The final day of racing on the main track, and for all intents and purposes, the final day of big-league racing in New York until spring.

I'm still trying to figure out how Queen's Triomphe paid $130 for winning the Montauk Handicap, because, after all, it was her fifth win from as many starts on dirt this year. Thanks to this upset score, her trainer, Tom Bush, will boast a profitable turf-to-dirt R.O.I. for the next decade. Turf-to-dirt has been a pet angle of mine for years, but alas, the onset of winter means that such plays will be few and far between in the coming months.

Ah well, like the song says, "To everything . . . there is a season."