03/18/2004 12:00AM

Jara turns in another upset

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Apprentice Fernando Jara continued to light up the tote board at Aqueduct by winning Thursday's feature aboard It's So Simple ($28.80).

Since booting home his first New York winner on Feb. 26, Jara has won with several longshots. Through Thursday, Jara had a record of 10-6-6 from 62 mounts.

Jara's double-digit winners include Anties Boy ($57.50), who scored on the first day of the spring meet March 10. Jara also rode winners who returned $32, $27.80, and $25.60.

Jara, 16, rode 58 winners in his native Panama before coming to New York last month upon the recommendation of Jose Rivera, his current agent. Jara is scheduled to lose his five-pound apprenticeship on May 12.

Four of Jara's winners were trained by Greg Martin, who said he likes what he has seen so far from the young rider, whose grandfather was a jockey in Panama.

"He follows instructions and has a good head on his shoulders," Martin said. "He doesn't get excited, is a good finisher, and a very good judge of pace. I think he has what it takes to be a success."

Through a translator, Jara said the biggest difference between riding in New York and Panama is the size of the purses. "In Panama, they are very low," Jara said.

Jara said he hasn't decided whether he will remain in New York after he loses the bug.

It's So Simple beats graded winners

It's So Simple, who won a $20,000 claiming race in January, defeated graded stakes winners Saarland and Snake Mountain when he took Thursday's $54,000 feature, a mile optional claiming race. It's So Simple was entered for a $75,000 tag but was not claimed.

Saarland, the 3-5 favorite, finished fourth in his first start since November. Snake Mountain, the 5-2 second choice, finished fifth and last in his first start since October. Saarland was beaten three-quarters of a length by the winner; Snake Mountain was beaten 1 1/2 lengths.

It's So Simple, who set the pace, covered the distance in 1:36.42 in the mud. Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., It's So Simple is a 6-year-old son of Smart Strike. He is owned by Jay Em Ess Stable.

Porcelli hopeful for 'good' Gotham

Mother Nature will have superintendent Jerry Porcelli and the New York Racing Association maintenance crew working round the clock to try to get the main track in shape for Saturday's Gotham Stakes.

"Right now we're starting to dry out, but it's still wet. It can't take a heck of a lot of moisture," Porcelli said Thursday during the races.

Thursday's races were run over a muddy track, and Friday's races were canceled due to an impending snowstorm that was forecast to bring 4 to 7 inches to the area.

According to Porcelli, the forecast called for snow beginning after midnight, with the heaviest amount falling between 4 and 7 a.m. on Friday. The forecast calls for upward of 4 inches, ending as early as 10 a.m. or as late as noon. The sun could come out by late afternoon.

Porcelli planned to harrow the track after Thursday's card, then "seal it as tight as we can; maybe hit it a few times during the night to tighten it down."

Porcelli is hopeful that he and his crew can simply push the snow off the main track, an arduous task in itself. The main track is 1 1/8 miles in circumference, plus an eighth-mile chute. The inner track is one mile.

Though the temperatures will fluctuate from below freezing Friday to near 50 on Saturday, Porcelli said he does not fear losing the track.

"Getting a little cold and then getting real warm isn't going to bother us, because there's no frost in the ground," Porcelli said. "We went through that phase already."

While it is likely the track will be muddy or sloppy Saturday, Porcelli said that if the snow stopped early enough on Friday and the sun came out, "it could conceivably be a harrowed good track."

* Lead the Parade, a half-brother to champion Storm Flag Flying, won his maiden Thursday in his third career start. Racing in blinkers for the first time, Lead the Parade stalked the pace and pulled away late to defeat Uncle Bruce by three-quarters of a length. Lead the Parade ($3.60) covered the nine furlongs in 1:53.42 over the muddy track.

- additional reporting by David Grening