11/18/2004 12:00AM

Hit 'all' button twice around pair of singles


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Saturday will be a melancholy day at Aqueduct, because the Red Smith Handicap is the last scheduled turf stakes of the New York season.

"Scheduled" may prove to be the key word because Aqueduct's turf course hasn't been labeled firm since the meet's opening week, and showers are in the forecast for Saturday afternoon. Too much rain would force the Red Smith to a wet main track, which would greatly improve the chances of Evening Attire.

The racing secretary thinks so, too, because Evening Attire, who won an off-the-turf running of the Red Smith by eight lengths under 126 pounds two years ago, would be shouldering 127 pounds under that scenario this time. Evening Attire has started only twice on turf in a 37-race career during which he has amassed earnings of more than $2.3 million, but one of them came just three weeks ago when he ran second in the Knickerbocker Handicap as the lukewarm favorite.

"I'm not sure what we're going to do," said trainer Pat Kelly. "I'm keeping an eye on the Clark."

Evening Attire was disqualified from first in that race at Churchill Downs last fall. This year's Clark will be run Nov. 26.

"A lot depends on the weather," Kelly said. "If the turf is firm, we might try it again."

Firm turf seems half-past doubtful. The best guess is for something in the range of good-yielding-soft, and given those conditions the Red Smith is a chaos race.

That isn't always the case with these end-of-year turf stakes: Theatrical was the year's champion grass horse when he won this race in 1987. Last year, Better Talk Now won the Knickerbocker and Balto Star, a multiple graded stakes winner on turf and dirt, wired the Red Smith.

For this particular running, however, handicappers should proceed with extreme caution. Consider the remaining entrants, excluding main-track-only-runners Zakocity and Kissin Saint:

- Rochester - Has won more than twice as much money on turf as anyone else, but is 1 for 15 the past two years, and that lone win was 14 months ago via disqualification.

- Certifiably Crazy - Critics can point to this New York-bred's seven runner-up finishes in his last 10 starts, and the fact that he was scratched from a second-level allowance on Thursday, for which he wasn't even the morning-line choice. On the other hand, he comes off lifetime-best efforts in the A.T. Cole and the Mohawk, and appears to be in position to control the pace. Up-close types on turf have fared especially well at this meet: Nine of the first 20 winners were one-two-three at the pace call, and 13 of 20 led or were within two lengths of the lead at that point, including Latino ($24), who wired the only other 1 3/8-mile marathon.

- Dreadnaught - He will be tested for class in his first graded stakes, but just ran his two best figures at this distance last month.

- Second Performance - Theatrical colt looked like an up-and-comer after winning a maiden race and a restricted stakes in June, but has disappointed in five subsequent starts.

- Navesink River - Barn would like to see the race switch to dirt, but will otherwise experiment with turf in this spot. The dirt-oriented pedigree (by Unbridled, out of an Easy Goer mare) and lack of a strong finishing kick make me want to look elsewhere.

- Irish Colonial - Possible favorite has handled soft turf in the past, comes off an absolutely perfect trip to edge Certifiably Crazy in the Mohawk, and actually set the pace in the 2003 Manhattan the first and only time he raced beyond 1 1/8 miles. "This was something we've been pointing for since the summer," said trainer Randy Schulhofer.

- Alost - French mystery horse is first-time Lasix after beating 15 rivals going 12 furlongs on soft turf. His Timeform ratings have been in the low-80's consistently, though, and the "Timeform minus-13" rule of thumb suggests he may simply be too slow.

- Quiet Ruler - Has produced a 1-for-20 record the past two years. His only in-the-money finish this year came in a steeplechase race.

- Sailaway - Still eligible for a second-level allowance, but closed to within a head of Evening Attire in the Knickerbocker. Seems a run-all-day type.

- Dr. Brendler - The starting highweight if this race remains on turf, he returned from a 14-month layoff in a 1 1/8-mile Keeneland allowance five weeks ago. Won the Grade 2 Dixie and finished a close third in the Grade 1 Manhattan last year on soft turf.

If you're sensing a lack of conviction, you're a shrewd judge of the situation. My plan for the pick four hopes to capitalize on mass confusion, and it is relatively simple:

- Start off in the first leg (race 6) by singling Polish Rifle. He won the Maryland Million Nursery by a pole when stretched from six to seven furlongs last fall, and is repeating that distance pattern third time back from a layoff as Steve Asmussen closes in on 500 wins.

- Second and third legs, the $60,000 Safely Kept Stakes and the Red Smith: "All-All."

- Conclude by singling Halo Malone, who was claimed out of a big win on Wednesday by Richard Dutrow Jr. and comes back on two days' rest stepping up from $25,000 to $35,000. Dutrow, a high-percentage winner with quick turnarounds, won with Here's Zealous for $25,000 last Sunday and again for $35,000 on three days' rest here Thursday.