04/13/2005 12:00AM

Finger Lakes starting '05 run


Live Thoroughbred racing returns to western New York on Friday when Finger Lakes launches its 44th season.

The 160-day meet, which will run through Nov. 29, contains 17 stakes worth slightly more than $1 million.

The 33rd running of the $150,000-added New York Derby on July 16 will once again be the season's biggest race.

The New York Derby is the second leg of the Big Apple Triple for New York-bred 3-year-olds, a series of three races that offers a $250,000 bonus to a horse who can sweep it. The series begins with the Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont Park on June 26 and concludes on Aug. 24 with the Albany Stakes at Saratoga.

Other meet highlights include the Lady Finger and Aspirant stakes on Aug. 20, both of which serve as a stepping-stones to the $100,000 New York Breeders' Futurity for New York-bred 2-year-olds on Labor Day, Sept. 5.

John Davila Jr., last year's leading rider with 136 winners, returns along with 2004 runner-up Pedro Rodriguez, who finished six wins behind Davila. Also returning is John Grabowski, six-time leading rider at the meet.

The top five trainers from 2004, led by Chris Englehart, who dominated the standings with 136 wins, are also back.

Friday's feature, race 8 on a nine-race program, is a $19,600 first-level allowance for statebreds going 4 1/2 furlongs.

The Queen's Doc, a 4-year-old trained by Mike Lecesse, owns a distinct edge in recency over nearly all his eight rivals. A four-time winner in 2004, A Queen's Doc has been chasing faster horses at Aqueduct since January.

Post time will be 1:10 p.m. Eastern through Oct. 28. The first race on Fridays between May 6 and July 22 will go off at 12:35 p.m.