04/23/2003 11:00PM

Heavy rain could force Fort Marcy off grass

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - There are only two stakes scheduled for the grass at Aqueduct's spring meet and the first of those stakes, Saturday's $100,000-added Fort Marcy Handicap, could become the victim of a forecast calling for an inch to two inches of rain.

The precipitation was to begin Friday evening and continue into Saturday.

Four horses were entered for the main track only in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy, and their connections are delighted with the forecast. Most notable among the main-track runners is Classic Endeavor, who has finished first or second in his last eight starts.

Twelve are in the main body of the 1 1/16-mile Fort Marcy and there is one also-eligible, Global Quest. Judge's Case, entered dirt only, and Statement are part of the wagering field. If the race is run on the main track, the distance is a mile.

The main contenders on the turf are Patrol and Shaanmer.

Last year, Patrol won four races, including two stakes, by leading from start to finish. Trained by Bill Mott, Patrol showed a new dimension by sitting off the early leaders and coming with a determined run to win an optional claimer at Gulfstream on March 22 in his first start since October. Eibar Coa rides Patrol, who drew post 7.

Trainer Christophe Clement said Shaanmer, who makes his American debut in the Fort Marcy, will handle good to soft ground. Undefeated as a 2-year-old for trainer Andre Fabre, Shaanmeer suffered four consecutive losses in group races in France last year at 3.

Clement expects good things this year from Shaanmer, but said he is not at his peak for his first start since September.

Shaanmer, the 116-pound highweight, breaks from post 3 under Edgar Prado.

Trainer Randy Schulhofer has the uncoupled entry of Irish Colonial and Union Place. Irish Colonial will run on the turf or dirt. Schulhofer said Union Place will start only if the race remains on the grass.

Irish Colonial hasn't run since finishing second in the off-the-turf Lawrence Realization at 1 1/2 miles last October. Schulhofer said Irish Colonial will need a race and is better suited to longer distances.

Schulhofer is high on Union Place, who last ran on March 2 and won a third-level allowance race at Gulfstream. Last year as a 3-year-old, Union Place won the Grade 3 Calder Derby.

"I think he will be tough," Schulhofer said. "He's good when he's fresh."

Union Place drew post 12.

Classic Endeavor is the one to beat among the main-track-only horses. He is coming off a win in the Grade 3 Excelsior Breeders' Cup on April 5.