04/09/2003 11:00PM

'Homewrecker' makes stakes debut

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Mark Hennig had one of the top 3-year-old sprinters last year in Gygistar. He could have another 3-year-old sprint star in the making in Halo Homewrecker, who makes his stakes debut in Saturday's $150,000 Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct.

The Grade 3 Bay Shore, which is overshadowed by the Wood Memorial and Carter Handicap, may be the best betting race on Aqueduct's 10-race card. A field of 11 3-year-olds was entered.

Halo Homewrecker, a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Yonaguska, was bet to favoritism in his debut last June at Belmont, but finished fourth. He came out of the race with an injury that sidelined him the remainder of the year. Halo Homewrecker returned to the races at Gulfstream, winning his maiden by a neck Feb. 22 and an entry-level allowance race by 6 3/4 lengths March 22. Both races were at seven furlongs.

"He was a little bit green in his first two starts back,'' said Hennig, who celebrated his 38th birthday Thursday winning Aqueduct's seventh race with Hollywood Princess. "Jerry [Bailey, jockey] said last time when he came away from there he acted like he wanted to be left alone. He pushed the button thinking he was going to fall back too far and he wanted to go up there with them. He made the comment that next time I would leave him alone.''

Bailey has opted to ride Special Rate for Bobby Frankel in the Bay Shore, so Hennig tapped John Velazquez to ride Halo Homewrecker, who breaks from post 6 with plenty of speed to his inside.

Special Rate, a half-brother to stakes winners Tates Creek and Sightseek, finished third behind fellow Bay Shore starter During in a Santa Anita allowance race March 12.

"I probably should have sent him, they went too slow for him early,'' Frankel said. "It was only his second start, still he ran a 95 Beyer. I think seven-eighths will be a good distance for him.''

Bob Baffert had thought about running During in the Wood, but has concerns about his distance capabilities so he opted to cut him back in distance from one mile to seven furlongs. Gary Stevens rides from post 2.

Second in Command, who won the Best Turn Stakes in the slop over the inner track, and Don Six, who comes off a solid entry-level allowance win going seven furlongs over this track, are potential upsetters.

Empire Maker balks in gate visit

The favorite has a flaw.

On his first morning at Aqueduct, Empire Maker, the favorite for Saturday's Wood Memorial jogged once around the sloppy nine-furlong oval. Afterward, he paid a visit to the starting gate for a schooling session.

He will need a tutor.

Empire Maker was very reluctant to load into the gate. After turning sideways several times approaching the gate, jockey Rudy Rodriguez hopped off the horse while the gate crew tried to get him in.

After several minutes, it took three handlers to get Empire Maker into the gate. He was put in twice without a rider then a third time with Rodriguez aboard. Once in, Empire Maker stood fine.

"Can't make life too easy, can you?'' Frankel said. "You always have to have something.''

Frankel said he planned to take Empire Maker to the gate Friday for another schooling session.

Porcelli optimistic about turf racing

Had Mother Nature cooperated, turf racing was scheduled to start Saturday.

But after a six-inch snowstorm Monday, a half-inch of rain Wednesday, and another rainstorm expected Friday, it is questionable if there will be turf racing during the remainder of the Aqueduct spring meet.

Surprisingly, track superintendent Jerry Porcelli is optimistic that, with an extended dry period, turf racing could be carded Wednesday or Thursday. The long-range forecast calls for dry, spring-like weather beginning Saturday afternoon and lasting through at least Tuesday.

"We thought we would have one Saturday, there certainly was enough grass to run on,'' Porcelli said. "With the short meet, we figured we would let them have one Saturday and really get going Wednesday. At this point, I don't think it would be out of the question to start Wednesday or Thursday.''

Of course, Porcelli was talking 24 hours before a major rainstorm was expected to dump up to an inch of rain in New York. With entries for Wednesday taken Saturday, it is possible management would take turf entries for Wednesday.

After Saturday, there are only 14 days remaining in the Aqueduct meet. The first turf stakes race, the $100,000 Fort Marcy Handicap, is scheduled for April 26, while the $100,000 Beaugay Handicap for fillies and mares, is slated for May 3.

Deville fined

Carl Deville, the consignor of three of the 2-year-olds who competed in New York's first juvenile race of the year here Thursday, will be fined $3,000 for failing to provide the proper paper work for two of the runners.

Three of the horses in the race showed similar workouts at Evangeline Downs and Keeneland. Deville is the trainer who broke all three horses before selling them to their current owners. One of the horses, Jackstir, was scratched because he had problems shipping here from Kentucky. The other two, Where's Bobby B and Ro Day Scious, are trained by Carlos Martin and Greg Martin, respectively.

According to the stewards, the paper work for those horses was mixed up with paperwork with horses that were shipped to New Jersey. The stewards were able to straighten out the situation before the race was run. Ro Day Scious, the even-money favorite, was run down by Cash Button, owned and trained by John McKee.

Affirmed Success on best game

In Saturday's $350,000 Carter, Affirmed Success will try to break the record he set last year as the oldest winner of the Grade 1 race, which was first run in 1895.

There was a time last summer when it looked like old age might have caught up with Affirmed Success, who is now 9 and has earnings of $2.2 million.

Affirmed Success was given his customary summer break on owner Albert Fried's farm after finishing second to Left Bank in the Tom Fool July 4. When he returned to trainer Richard Schosberg's Saratoga barn in August, the gelding was slow to get back into the swing of things.

"He looked good, but he just didn't seem mentally ready to go back into the system just yet," Schosberg said. "I sent him back to the farm and he came back to me in the fall and that worked beautifully. I think the warm weather takes its toll on older horses a lot more. I've never seen him so tired as he was after the Tom Fool; it was so hot that day."

Affirmed Success has been a graded stakes winner every year since he turned 4.

"That is really something," Schosberg said. "He is like Cal Ripken, Gordie Howe, and Michael Jordan - the kind of athletes who achieve that level of excellence are few and far between."

"Salute to Queens" on tap

The New York Racing Association and the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation will celebrate "A Salute to Queens" at Aqueduct on Saturday.

Among the organizations participating in the event are the New York Hall of Science, the Astoria Performing Arts Center, and the Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory of Music.

The activities will include a tour of a portable planetarium, live music, and other demonstrations.

* Jockey Jean-Luc Samyn has retained the services of agent Robin Carroll, effective with the start of the new condition book April 23. Samyn parted company with longtime agent Ralph Theroux Jr. last weekend. Carroll had been booking mounts for Dennis Carr.

* There will not be racing at Aqueduct for the next two Sundays, Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Entries for the Wednesday card, normally taken on Sunday, will be taken on Saturday. Entries for the April 23 card will be taken April 19.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson