11/02/2004 12:00AM

Either surface fine for Honorable Buck


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The condition of Aqueduct's grass course was less-than-perfect on Tuesday, the day entries were taken for Thursday. As a result, the only grass race carded for Thursday is the $60,000-added Manila Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Grass racing was canceled Tuesday because of uneven patches on the course, which raised safety concerns. With no racing on Wednesday, the track crew had two days to try to correct the problem.

Further complicating matters is that rain is forecast for Thursday. The potential for wet weather drew four main-track-only horses.

Eight were entered to run on the grass in the one-mile Manila.

There are several horses in the field who are playable on either surface.

, a New Jersey shipper, enters the Manila in top form and has the most wins - 4 - among his rivals.

Trained by the leading trainer at The Meadowlands, Patricia Farro, Honorable Buck has finished second in his last two starts in minor grass stakes. In his most recent race, Honorable Buck was beaten a half-length by Grand Heritage in the Paterson Stakes on Oct. 8. Honorable Buck's dirt form is also solid, with 3 wins from 9 starts.

Honorable Buck drew post 2 and jockey Jose Ferrer.

Ecclesiastic won his maiden on the dirt at Keeneland in April. In four starts on the grass, Ecclesiastic has a pair of seconds and a third.

In his last start, Ecclesiastic finished fourth in the Paterson, his first race in eight weeks, and was beaten less than two lengths by Grand Heritage.

Cornelio Velasquez rides Ecclesiastic from post 8.

Heckle, who will be saddled by Todd Pletcher, is also proven on dirt and turf. Last year, Heckle won the Grade 3 Tremont on the main track at Belmont. After 11 months away from the races, Heckle returned in August and finished second in an allowance at Saratoga. He followed that race with a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park in September. In his turf debut in his last start, Heckle won a seven-furlong, second-level allowance race by 1 1/4 lengths over Saratoga County on Oct. 9.

Heckle will be ridden by John Velazquez and drew post 4.

Dealer Choice is strictly a turf runner and will take plenty of money if the race remains on grass, but might be worth betting against. In June, he should have won as the favorite against a similar field and has lost two of his last three starts as the favorite.