11/06/2003 12:00AM

Home-track advantage an oldie but a goodie


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - "Horses for courses" and "a race over the track" are old-time handicapping angles that have been around forever, but recent developments suggest they still influence results as strongly as ever.


On Breeders' Cup Day, four of the five Cup races run on dirt were won by horses coming off a race over the Santa Anita surface.

Such horses ran one-two-three in the Distaff, headed by $83.40 bomb Adoration; the $1 trifecta came back $1,017.

Halfbridled ($6.60), who had won over the track, was able to overcome post 14 in the Juvenile Fillies, and paid the same price to place ($4.80) as her morning-line win odds.

Action This Day, coming off a maiden route win at Santa Anita, went last to first at $55.60 in the Juvenile.

Pleasantly Perfect, the lone Classic entrant with a recent race over the track, overtook favored Medaglia d'Oro at a $30.40 mutuel.

Cajun Beat in the Sprint was the lone Cup dirt winner who had last raced elsewhere, but even in this race you needed 13-1 shot Bluesthestandard, coming off a third-place finish over the track, to complete the exacta.

On the New York Showcase Day card at Belmont Park the previous Saturday, the inner turf course was soft and the Mohawk Handicap on the turf was won by Quiet Ruler, who rebounded from lackluster recent form to win by open lengths and pay $42.80. In the same race a year earlier, also on soft turf, Quiet Ruler won just as convincingly at $93.

Horses who are comfortable with today's footing are always a threat to jump up at a price and should always be kept in mind. During the early stages of a new race meet handicappers are advised to bring this train of thought to the forefront, and be sharply prejudiced in favor of horses who have won at the track or are training swiftly over the surface.

Each of the first six days at the current Aqueduct meeting produced several winners either stabled at The Big A or with a past history of success over the main track:

Oct. 29: Aqueduct-based Manitoy ($2.80) easily won the sloppy opener. Storm in Philly ($16) won first off the claim for Aqueduct-based Gary Contessa; she had never raced here, but had turned in a bullet work over the track. Yourstocommand ($7.50), stabled at Aqueduct, overcame the outside post in a two-turn route to wire an off-the-turf race. City News ($19.60) claimed in September by Aqueduct-based Faustino Ramos, ran to a pair of bullet workouts over the track to cap a $1,361 pick four as the longest price in the sequence.

Oct. 30: Threat of Victory ($3.90) had two local works since losing four straight starts as the favorite at Saratoga and Belmont. Redskin Warrior ($6) easily won an entry-level allowance for 2-year-olds. The lone entrant based at Aqueduct, he had worked six times over the track since early September.

Oct. 31: Shout ($7.40) and Ann Dear ($17.40) won back-to-back races for Aqueduct-based trainer Peter Bazeos. Shout showed three bullet works over the track. Ann Dear, idle since early August, had worked six times for her return, the latest a one-mile breeze. Elyon ($3.10) and Stoic ($7.20) made up half the pick four as Aqueduct-based winners for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. Elyon is 2 for 3 on this track and 0 for 4 elsewhere. Stoic had been idle since being eased in the Spinaway two months earlier.

Nov. 1: To Di for Again ($9.90) was the lone speed, and the lone entrant training over the track. Swingforthefences ($11.20) was a second-time starter with six workouts over the track for trainer Rick Violette Jr.

Nov. 2: Violette struck with Cool Hal ($9.20), another maiden coming off a Belmont debut with six local works. Later, Violette also saddled Read the Footnotes ($7.80) to wire the Nashua. That colt had worked twice over the track since a sixth-place finish in the Champagne, the latest a bullet five furlongs. The opener went to The Clown ($7.70), a Dutrow-trained runner whose last fast-track start at Aqueduct had been a win with a career-top Beyer Speed Figure back in March. Fly With Karakorum ($5.30) improved to 2 for 4 on Aqueduct's main track, as opposed to 0 for 12 elsewhere. New York Hero ($15.20) was third back from a layoff, with four works over the track under his belt.

Nov. 4: Anita Cocktail ($2.80), part of Dutrow's favored entry, had breezed a bullet half-mile over the surface four days earlier. Ro Day Scious ($10), first time off a trainer change to Aqueduct-based Frank Laboccetta Jr., returned from a two-month layoff to wire maidens. Bluegrass Belle ($8.60) went turf-to-dirt for Violette, her five local works finished off with a bullet in the mud five days beforehand.

Totaling things up through Election Day, four of the five trainers with three or more wins are stabled at Aqueduct - Dutrow (5 for 13), Violette (4 for 7), Bazeos (3 for 4), and Laboccetta (3 for 5) - and their aggregate record was 15 for 29, better than 50 percent. Players who anticipated that Aqueduct-based trainers would come out firing have strung along for a merry ride.

The lone exception on the leaderboard was Todd Pletcher, who is in the midst of an historically dominant year in New York since the spring, and tied for the lead here. Among his five winners was Candybedandy ($10), who won an allowance on turf last Sunday. She is now 2 for 2 on the Aqueduct turf course, by the way, and winless from seven other starts.