03/06/2015 4:39PM

Expect a wet track for Saturday's pick six, Gotham

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Michael Amoruso
Gotham favorite El Kabeir is proven on an off track.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The remnants of Thursday’s winter storm are likely to have an impact on Saturday’s card at Aqueduct, which includes the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes, two other stakes and a pick-six carryover of $148,147.

Though Saturday’s forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 38 degrees, Aqueduct’s inner track is expected to be wet, according to Glen Kozak, the New York Racing Association's vice president of facilities and racing surfaces.

“It’s going to be a muddy track tomorrow for sure,” Kozak said Friday afternoon.

Thursday’s storm brought 6 1/2 inches of snow to the area around the track, after an inch of rain had fallen on Wednesday. Live racing was canceled both Thursday and Friday in hopes of having a safe surface for Saturday’s 10-race card, which begins at 12:50 p.m. Eastern. There was no training Wednesday or Thursday, but the track was open for three hours Friday morning.

The pick six begins Saturday with race 5, at 2:50 p.m. The Gotham is scheduled to go to post at 4:50 p.m.

Kozak said NYRA maintenance crews had all the snow off the inner track by late Thursday night, but the bitter cold temperatures overnight froze the moisture that had gotten into the surface. Eight inches of snow fell at Belmont Park, and maintenance crews did a stellar job clearing the snow off the training track and horse paths to allow training to be conducted during normal hours on Friday.

Following training at Aqueduct Friday, maintenance crews worked all afternoon to try to get as much moisture as they could out of the track. When snow is taken off the track, part of the cushion is taken off with it. Kozak said a total of 250 to 300 tons of dirt was spread around the surface to replace it.

“It sounds like a lot, but over a mile it’s not,” Kozak said.

Plenty of moisture was seen coming out of the inner track Thursday afternoon, and it was only 25 degrees but sunny. Whatever moisture remained in the surface will freeze Friday night, and with temperatures in the mid 30s on Saturday, that moisture will melt and create a wet surface.

A wet surface is likely to make for a demanding surface which, in the Gotham, could benefit the favorite El Kabeir, who has seven races under his belt, the most of any in the 10-horse field. In January, El Kabeir won the Grade 3 Jerome over an inner track labeled “good.” Last fall, he finished fourth in the Grade 1 Champagne over a sloppy Belmont track and second to Blofeld in the Grade 2 Nashua over a muddy main track. Irad Ortiz Jr. rode him in both races.

“He’s run on a couple of different types of racetracks and nothing’s seemed to really bother him,” said Tonja Terranova, wife of and assistant to trainer John Terranova. “The day he was second at Aqueduct that was a real deep, demanding track and he got away from Irad a little bit and got a little bit tired. He had missed a little bit of training going into that race. I don’t think a wet, demanding track will bother him. He gets through anything.”