01/18/2007 12:00AM

Everyone else is doing it - why isn't Aqueduct?


Santa Claus didn't bring the one thing I wanted for Christmas, which was for the New York Racing Association to adopt the 72-hour entry schedule used by most racing circuits. As of noon Thursday, a horseplayer with a computer (by now that's most of us) could download DRF past performances for Beulah Park, Charles Town, Delta Downs, Fair Grounds, Golden Gate, Sam Houston, Los Alamitos, Louisiana Downs, Laurel, Mountaineer, Oaklawn Park, Philadelphia Park, Sunland Park, Turfway Park, and Turf Paradise. They could get any of those 15 tracks, but they couldn't get Aqueduct or Gulfstream Park, because entries for those 48-hour entry tracks typically aren't available until mid-afternoon.

Beyond making life more difficult than it has to be for some public handicappers, the 48-hour entry schedule doesn't make sense from a business standpoint. The Thoroughbred simulcast market is highly competitive, so it is illogical that any tracks would grant rival operations a 24-hour head start to get their product to the customer.

Remarkably, that's the way it is. So I have spent the late morning and early afternoon the same way I've spent it on virtually every other Thursday, mapping out my national roster of Saturday races I want to watch, bet, or both. As of 3:15 p.m., when the Aqueduct entries were just meandering their way through cyberspace, here is what I had come up with:

Oaklawn Park: Value pays the rent, and there figures to be plenty of value in Hot Springs, where newly installed video poker machines will help propel purses up to about $300K per day. Naturally, the stable area is overflowing, and 91 horses (just over 10 per race) are on the first Saturday card.

The $50,000 American Beauty, a six-furlong dash for fillies and mares, drew a field of 10, including three - All for Fashion, True Tails, and Miss Elsie - who have run Beyer tops of 99. That makes for a pretty salty ungraded stakes, and it may boil down to Miss Elsie, who is 5-2-0 from eight starts at Oaklawn, and All for Fashion, a lightly raced 4-year-old who is 3 for 3 on fast tracks with an average margin of victory of more than seven lengths.

Fair Grounds: After last year's meet was run at Louisiana Downs because of Hurricane Katrina, it's great to see horses rambling down the longest stretch run in the country again.

The two stakes offerings are tough sledding. The $75,000 Gentilly, for 3-year-olds bred in Louisiana, drew seven who have no experience over the local turf course. Five of them are stretching out to 1 1/16 miles off six-furlong dirt sprints, and four are making their first start on grass. Of the three with experience on grass, Stag's Glory and Royal Pebbles are maidens whose cause appears hopeless. Forgotten Prince, however, made his debut on the quirky course at Kentucky Downs against open maidens and has since developed nicely on dirt to win both of his statebred starts decisively. Importantly, this will be his first turf start on Lasix.

The eight fillies and mares in the $75,000 Truly Bound Handicap have last-race lines at Fair Grounds, Churchill Downs, Delta Downs, and the Polytrack surfaces at Keeneland and Turfway Park. Six have lifetime Beyer tops within a few points of each other. Gun to my head, it's a three-headed coin flip with Stormy Amber, Dash of Humor, and Aly's Vow.

Rise N Go and Sonoma Song, a pair of 3-year-old fillies by Unbridled's Song, will vie for favoritism in race 7, a one-mile maiden special weight. They finished necks apart last out. I'm looking to get 4-1 or better on Moonee Ponds, who stretches out after two sprints. In her debut, she circled very wide passing seven rivals on a drying out muddy track at Churchill Downs. Next out, on a sloppy Fair Grounds strip that featured a front-end bias, she split foes and rallied mildly to finish five lengths clear for third. Third time's the charm.

Laurel Park: In the $100,000 Fire Plug, I get the feeling Crafty Schemer, who is drawn on the far outside, is vulnerable first out since he set the pace in the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial. Celtic Innis beat Crafty Schemer at Colonial Downs last summer, and he may get a favorable pace setup if speedy shipper New York shipper Kazoo and Country Moggie pester Crafty Schemer early.

In the $100,000 What a Summer, Silmaril, a splendid mare who has won 44 percent of her career starts, looms a standout off any of her three performances at Laurel during the latter stages of 2006.