02/14/2006 12:00AM

Extra rest may aid Hunter's Tale


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The racetrack saying "study long, study wrong" will be put to the test Thursday at Aqueduct. The card was originally scheduled for last Sunday but postponed because of the Blizzard of 2006, so past performances have been available to handicappers for nearly a week.

So far the only predictable thing this winter has been the lack of a consistent weather pattern. Last weekend's nor'easter dumped 26.9 inches of snow in Central Park, the most recorded in New York City. But even though Mother Nature delivered a haymaker, her timing couldn't have been better. The leading edge of the storm arrived late Saturday afternoon, just after Achilles of Troy won the Whirlaway Stakes, which gave track superintendent John Passero enough of a window to batten down the hatches.

"The track is in excellent shape," said Passero on Tuesday afternoon. "Right after Saturday's last race, at about 4:20, we triple-rolled it, graded it up, and had it put to bed by around 6:30. We were able to let it lay, and the cover of snow insulated it. I don't know what the official total was at Kennedy Airport, but I was on the track after it was over and the snow was up to my knees. I'd say it was at least 18 inches, probably more like 20."

Temperatures were expected to climb back into the 50's under partly sunny skies on Thursday, when the nominal feature is race 8, an entry-level allowance with a purse of $46,000.

A field of 10 older males originally entered the 1 1/16-mile route, including the Leah Gyarmati-trained entry of Southack and Hunter's Tale. A few additional days of rest may be most beneficial to , a 6-year-old gelding who returned from a layoff to run fifth in a New York-bred starter allowance on Feb. 1. Instead of running back on 10 days' rest, Hunter's Tale, who is 3 for 13 on the inner track and just 1 for 22 elsewhere, will have two weeks between starts.

The footing or pace scenario will be of little or no concern to Monopoly Pricing, who breaks from post 7 with leading rider Eibar Coa.

three victories last year came under a variety of circumstances: a late-rallying win on Belmont Park's Widener turf; a wire-to-wire win in the mud at Saratoga; and a stalking-trip score on the second day of Aqueduct's winter meet.

Other contenders include .