11/06/2007 12:00AM

Pace meltdown on Big A menu?

EmailOZONE PARK, N.Y. – The trademark of high-quality one-turn miles is there are no breathers, and that will hold in Thursday’s eighth race, a $60,000 third-level optional claimer out of the chute.

Five of the nine entrants, including lone 3-year-old Out of Gwedda, have run in graded stakes at least once in their last nine starts, and the pace will range from blazing to suicidal depending on whether trainer Gary Contessa runs both Indian War Dance and Stolen Time.

Indian War Dance is a noted speedball with a perfect 7-for-7 mark at a mile. Stolen Time, second in all four starts on this track, is back from a productive stint in New Jersey for trainers Kelly Breen and Greg Sacco and makes his first start for Contessa.

“Stolen Time is a little more versatile,” Contessa said. “He’s training really good. Hopefully he’ll run as good for me as he did for those guys.”

Out of Gwedda, who scratched from last week’s Wild Again Stakes here as well as an allowance at Philadelphia Park on Tuesday, is capable of mixing it up early, as he has in several stakes sprints this year. But trainer Bill Badgett is taking the blinkers off Out of Gwedda, the 2006 Tremont winner, as he runs in the longest race of his career.

“Hopefully this will get him to relax a little bit more,” Badgett said. “There’s a ton of speed in there, but he’s capable of sitting behind horses. We’ve been trying to look for a race to see if he could stretch out.”

Also expected to vie for early position are Moon’s Halo, who chased recent Sport Page winner Tasteyville from gate to wire in his only previous start at a mile; Regent Spirit, who has been on the lead in three of four starts in this condition; and Siphon City, last year’s Cornhusker winner – with a 112 Beyer Speed Figure – who set the pace in the 2006 Whitney Handicap in his last New York start.

A meltdown could help late closers Champ Safi and Blazing Purrsuit, but Explosive Heat may get the garden spot just off the first flight.

Explosive Heat, a three-quarter brother to last Sunday’s Turnback the Alarm winner Sugar Shake, has shown a good blend of speed and stamina, winning 3 of 4 starts on fast conventional dirt tracks, the lone blemish a two-turn route at Saratoga.

“When I got him out of there he started doing well again,” said Bruce Levine. “I think he’ll run well.”