10/28/2008 11:00PM

North Country meets open company


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Though North Country will leave the cozy confines of New York-bred company for the first time Friday, he could be the horse to beat in a first-level allowance race that serves as the Halloween feature at Aqueduct. The $46,000 race is scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

A New York-bred son of Silver Deputy, North Country has won 3 of 10 starts and is coming out of a sixth-place finish in the $150,000 Mohawk Handicap, part of the Oct. 18 New York Showcase Day card at Belmont.

Though sixth, North Country was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths by Logic Way in the Mohawk. North Country was in receipt of a ground-saving trip under Rajiv Maragh, but was never able to find clear running room in the stretch.

"It looked like he was full of run but had nowhere to go," trainer John Hertler said. "He tried to get him out, but there was a horse on his outside and he couldn't go anywhere."

Hertler said he is "not thrilled" about running North Country back in 13 days, but added "this looks like a good spot."

Prior to the Mohawk, North Country won a second-level, statebred allowance by 2 1/4 lengths at Saratoga. In his only prior start at Aqueduct, North Country won a New York-bred allowance race by three lengths, beating, among others, Logic Way. Javier Castellano was aboard for that maiden win and is back aboard Friday.

Contention runs deep in this allowance heat. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens sends out Colonial Kid, who was beaten a nose in his only start at Aqueduct in April and who comes out of a second-place finish in a first-level allowance last month at Belmont. Moon Ala Mode, Baletti, and Big Jerome finished second, third, and fourth, respectively, to Logic Way in an open-company allowance race at Belmont in September.

Trainer Barclay Tagg has the coupled entry of Plenty Coups and Raddical Sabbatical, both coming off front-running maiden victories. Plenty Coups could play out as the main speed. Raddical Sabbatical is working strongly for this.

Counting House has won 2 of his last 3, but steps up in class here. Bagavond stretches out around two turns after sprinting in his last 12 starts. Forever My Friend, Ea, and Marq of Love round out the field for the turf. Devil's Concierge and Eldaafer are entered to run only if the race is moved to the main track and run at one mile.