03/18/2008 12:00AM

Pair of closers can rely on four to go at it early


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Aqueduct's inner track has a reputation for carrying early speed, but closers can be effective when a contested pace develops, and there should be one in Thursday's featured eighth race, a $53,000 optional claimer with second-level allowance conditions.

Four of the six older males in the 1 1/16-mile route typically set or force the early issue, including Three in the Bag and Indian War Dance, who both entered for the optional $50,000 claim price.

In his only local start this winter, Three in the Bag came within a neck of notching his fourth win on the inner track. His only start since then was a sharp allowance triumph at Philadelphia Park, his second win since he was claimed last June by Tony Dutrow.

Three in the Bag drew favorably in post 2, inside potential early rivals Marina Market, Soaring By, and Indian War Dance.

Indian War Dance, trained by Gary Contessa, is stuck on the outside but comes off a speed-sharpening sprint and stretches back out to a more favorable distance. A confirmed front-runner, Indian War Dance has won 4 of 6 starts on wet tracks, so any leftover moisture from an expected soaking rain Wednesday could help him.

Marina Market, trained by Gary Gullo, won back-to-back races against softer fields early at the meet, but then ran into a buzz saw in Wafi City and finished fourth most recently.

Marina Market gets a trainer change to Gary Sciacca, who returns Thursday after serving a 120-day suspension for a medication violation.

Soaring By, unplaced in three Grade 2 stakes last year as a 3-year-old, went well in his second start of the year at Gulfstream Park. He set the pace and held second to Frost Giant, who was fourth at 6-5 in last Saturday's Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap. The Mark Hennig-trained Soaring By picks up leading rider Ramon Dominguez.

No Reply and Reptilian Smarts are closers who can benefit from the probable fast pace.

Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, No Reply just missed two starts ago in his first start at this level, and looks to rebound after a wide-trip fourth as the favorite last out.

Reptilian Smarts won maiden and first-level allowance races on the inner track last March before a fifth-place finish in the Wood Memorial.

"He's had some foot problems, but he's had a couple of good workouts back to back, and we're hoping to get him back on track to where he was last year," said trainer Tim Ritvo. "If we can sit and stalk, we're looking for a good trip and a good race."