11/08/2006 1:00AM

Papua sticks out, stretches out


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Distance will be a key theme at Aqueduct Friday, when Papua tries to stretch out to a mile in race 1, and a field of nine ventures two miles in race 8.

In many respects Papua is a stickout against six rivals in the opener, a $45,000 starter allowance open to New York-breds that have started for a claiming price.

But with the exception of a fourth-place check in the Damon Runyon as a 2-year-old, and a $1,440 payday finishing fifth in a two-turn allowance at Saratoga the following summer, the rest of Papua's $602,585 bankroll has been amassed in sprints.

"I know he goes seven-eighths without a problem, and he's training so good right now," said trainer Pat Reynolds, who claimed the

7-year-old Papua for Paul Pompa Jr. at Saratoga. "Hopefully, we can get back on the scoreboard."

Papua's two starts for Reynolds at Belmont include a third in the $125,000 Hudson Handicap, in which he was beaten just a length for all the money.

"He hurt himself in his stall prior to the stake and missed a few days of training," Reynolds said. "I still think he could've won."

Should Papua win Friday and collect the $27,000 winner's share, he will have virtually won himself out in his three starts for Reynolds. Eight of Papua's 11 wins have come at the Big A.

The main threat is Wing Man, a John Nerud homebred trained by Jimmy Jerkens who recently was a sharp second in the slop at Belmont off a layoff. Wing Man is 2-1-0 from 3 starts on the main track.

Meanwhile, history buffs might recall that the two-mile track record of 3:19.20 was set 42 years ago this fall in the 1964 Jockey Club Gold Cup, when Kelso beat Roman Brother by 5 1/2 lengths to cement his fifth consecutive Horse of the Year title at age 7.

That record is likely to remain intact after race 8, a first-level optional claimer that begins out of the chute at the seven-eighths pole.

"I wanted to try something different," said NYRA racing secretary P.J. Campo. "I'm surprised it got nine. I was expecting five or six."

Indy Storm, fourth in the 2005 Belmont Stakes, may vie for favoritism with last-out winner Successful Affair in this hard-to-handicap marathon.

Depending on the response from horsemen, Campo said he might try a revival of the once-a-month winter starter handicap series from back in the day.