03/14/2007 11:00PM

Only two in Cicada own up-to-par Beyers


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - During the middle of March, the weather goes through more form reversals than the worn-down warriors that have knocked heads on Aqueduct's inner track all winter. It was a balmy 63 degrees at post time for Thursday's opener, but a forecast of freezing rain changing to snow prompted the New York Racing Association to pull the plug on live racing and simulcasting Friday.

Winter's farewell blast was expected to clear out in time to spare Saturday's card, highlighted by the Grade 3 Cicada, New York's first graded stakes of the season for 3-year-old fillies.

From the inaugural running won in 1993 by Personal Bid through the 2005 edition, the Cicada was run at seven furlongs on the main track, the most notable winner being Xtra Heat, the throwback sprinter who went on to be named champion filly of 2001.

The Cicada was switched to the inner track and necessarily shortened to six furlongs last year, when Wild Gams won a strong renewal against Celestial Legend, who came into the race unbeaten after six starts.

Wild Gams recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 in last year's Cicada, which slightly topped Personal Bid's previous all-time Cicada high figure of 100. Historically, it takes a figure right around 90 to win the Cicada, so any filly within a couple lengths of that number can be deemed a contender.

Interestingly, Control System and Golden Dreamer are the only entrants this year who have run par for the Cicada, though Five Star Daydream paired up figures of 82 winning consecutive starts at Belmont last fall and is entitled to improve off that number in her first start of the year.

"She's been going the right way size-wise and condition-wise," said Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Five Star Daydream. "She'll stretch out, but this is a good spot to get her started."

Five Star Daydream should get the garden spot down the backstretch, because Control System and Golden Dreamer appear destined to hook up in a fierce duel for the early lead, but it's not likely she will be fully cranked.

In winning her first two starts at Philadelphia Park by big margins under mild urging, Control System was never behind another rival from the moment the gate opened. The locally based Golden Dreamer won her first three starts on Lasix with steadily rising figures, but then bounced badly at 1-2 in the Dearly Precious before rebounding with a big pacesetting effort against New York-bred males just a week ago on March 9.

On another surface, the prospect of an enervating early skirmish might prompt handicappers to favor a potential stalker such as Five Star Daydream, but on Aqueduct's speed-favoring inner track the most probable winner in this scenario is the survivor of the duel.

Recently, the surface has been as speed-conducive as ever: the programs of Feb. 19, 22, and 25, as well as March 4, 8, 9, and on Wednesday all produced at least six winners who wired the field or raced within a half-length of the leader. The meet's winning post positions reveal an almost perfect progression from the inside to the outside in sprints and routes, and that further underscores how golden the rail has been all winter. Among 50 horses breaking from posts 11 and 12 since opening day, the only winner was the 23-1 shot Indecisive Miss, who topped a field of $25,000 New York-bred maiden claimers on Jan. 31.

As fate would have it, Golden Dreamer drew the rail for the Cicada, and thus appears committed to the lead. The question is whether she will react negatively on such short rest.

The question with Control System is how she handles the rise in class and the likelihood of a stronger pace. Being drawn outside Golden Dreamer gives Control System's connections the option of avoiding a cutthroat duel if they are so inclined, and it seems as though they might be.

"I think she'll rate kindly and doesn't have to be on the lead," said trainer Michael Trombetta, who skillfully developed last year's Kentucky Derby favorite Sweetnorthernsaint right around this time last year.

His words are the kind trainers almost invariably say about their speed horses. More often than not, it turns out the horse really does need the lead. The fun is in the finding out, and in the Cicada we'll find out a lot more about Control System.