03/09/2005 12:00AM

Main track's opening still up in air


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Though most of Aqueduct's main track was awash in snow, ice, and slush on Wednesday, New York Racing Association officials are still hoping to open it for racing next Wednesday. That means the Gotham, a 3-year-old race scheduled for March 19, would be run as a one-turn mile race as advertised.

Officials at NYRA, however, admitted those plans could change if winter weather persists as is forecast. As it stands, the main track is scheduled to open for training on Monday.

A winter storm on Tuesday left a small accumulation of ice and snow on the track, and with the potential for more winter weather this weekend, track superintendent John Passero said opening the track for training on Monday is questionable.

"That part may not happen," Passero said. "Hopefully, we can run on it a couple of days [before the Gotham]. We'll do our damnedest to make sure the track's open for the Gotham."

The main track was originally scheduled to open on Wednesday. But management weeks ago pushed its opening back to next Wednesday.

Passero said ideally he would need seven days to get a track ready. Passero and his staff did work on the main track Monday.

"We need four or five days of decent weather," he said. "No rain and no snow."

Mike Lakow, the NYRA racing secretary, said he would prefer to keep the Gotham a one-turn mile this year. He hinted that next year it is possible the Gotham would be run over the inner track at a mile and 70 yards.

"We've had some talk about future years staying on the inner track longer so we're not rushed or pressured, and we'd take a look at making the Gotham a mile and 70 yards around two turns," Lakow said.

The connections of Galloping Grocer, Naughty New Yorker, and Mr. Sword have all indicated they would prefer the race be run around two turns.

"We're not going to change the race because of personalities and who wants what," Lakow said. "To me, the Gotham is a one-turn mile race."

As of Wednesday, the list of horses pointing to the Gotham were Benjamin Baby, Byanosejoe, Distinctive Trick, Galloping Grocer, Maddy's Lion, Mr. Congeniality, Naughty New Yorker, Survivalist. and Touched by Madness. Mayan King and Mr. Sword would likely run if the race were at two turns.

Scrappy T points to Wood

One name conspicuously missing from the Gotham nominees was Scrappy T, winner of the Count Fleet Stakes and a close third in the Whirlaway. Trainer Robert Bailes said he is pointing the 3-year-old gelding to the $750,000 Wood Memorial here on April 9.

"We'll let the rest of the boys beat themselves up a little bit, and we'll be waiting for them in the Wood," Bailes said. "We're going to be asking a lot of him this spring, and I don't want him hitting on his downside, I want him peaking. We felt we'd have to miss a dance and that was the one we decided to miss. Believe me, it was a tough call."

Super Fuse back in New York

Super Fuse, a stakes winner in New York at 2, has returned to the Big Apple to run in Saturday's $100,000 Toboggan Handicap. Originally scheduled for seven furlongs on the main track, the Grade 3 Toboggan will be run at six furlongs on the inner.

Kathleen O'Connell, who took over the training of Super Fuse two months ago, said the fact the Toboggan would be run on the inner track was one reason why she elected to ship him here from Florida. Super Fuse has 3 wins and 2 seconds from 6 starts over the inner track

"The race up in New York isn't the most ideal spot, but the owners have had a lot of success with him up there," O'Connell said from Florida. "It looked like it's coming up a short field, though you know you're always going to hook a couple of tough horses. But if it's a small field and you know the horse has run well over the surface, it makes it more enticing.''

Super Fuse ran in a minor stakes at Tampa on Jan. 29, finishing a rallying fourth. O'Connell said her horse figured to get tired in that spot - his first race in two months - and he did. O'Connell said Aaron Gryder would ride Super Fuse in the Toboggan.

Others pointing to the Toboggan are Shake You Down, Mr. Whitestone. Papua, Houston's Prayer, Jets Fan, and Primary Suspect.

Golden Contender has edge in feature

The Bruce Levine-Mike Luzzi trainer-jockey combination has been lethal here of late, and they look to strike paydirt again with Golden Contender in Thursday's $45,000 starter allowance feature.

Golden Contender came off a six-week layoff to win a $30,000 claiming race by three lengths. That was at 1 1/16 miles, this is at 1 1/4 miles, a distance at which Golden Contender is 0-1-2 from 4 starts. Still, he looks to have a pace advantage over several of his main rivals and is a five-time winner over the inner track.

Mackinac looked like a new horse winning an allowance race by 13 3/4 lengths on Feb. 24. A duplication of that race puts him in the mix. Region of Merit was beaten a head in a similar spot here on Dec. 10. He is certainly a contender if one can overlook trainer Dominick Schettino's 1-for-42 record over the inner track.

Runaway Russy and S. Cherry Legacy, the one-two finishers from a 1 1/4-mile starter handicap Feb. 9, are also contenders in here.