Updated on 09/17/2011 10:48AM

Pop Rocks would relish a track with moisture


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The weather forecast for Wednesday calls for a wintry mix of morning precipitation, which would be just fine with several sharp sprinters entered in Aqueduct's six-furlong feature.

The $47,000 third-level allowance drew a field of seven older males, and several have run quite well on a wet inner track.

Pop Rocks, part of a formidable Scott Lake-trained entry along with Reason to Hail, posted a front-running triumph in the mud earlier at the meet, and looks to be the main speed with Luis Chavez aboard.

Chavez is giving John McKee a tussle for leading apprentice honors. Though McKee arrived in New York to much fanfare after breaking Steve Cauthen's record for winners at Churchill Downs last fall, his lead over Chavez was just 23-21 heading into Wednesday's card.

Chavez received a 10-day suspension, which he has appealed, for careless riding in last Friday's third race, when his mount, Seeing Signs, came over soon after the start and caused Pelican Pete to clip heels, unseating McKee and sending him for a CAT scan.

The battling bug boys break side by side: Chavez and Pop Rocks in post 5, and McKee in post 6 on Turn Back the Time, a deep closer who steps up after a 29-1 upset of a second-level allowance.

Pop Rocks's only conceivable early pace rival is Vinemeister, whom he outdueled Jan. 11 when they finished second and fifth, respectively, behind American Century, whose time for six furlongs (1:08.93) was the fastest in three years on the inner track.

Vinemeister showed nothing on a "good" inner track two starts back, in his first experience with wet dirt.

That could be an edge for 6-year-old Pop Rocks. But even so, he will have to conserve enough energy to hold off late bids from Papua, Clergy, and Quarter Ton of Fun, who all emerge from sharp off-the-pace efforts on wet tracks.

Papua has won both of his starts on the inner track this winter, both beneath Richard Migliore on a track labeled "good." A 4-year-old New York-bred colt, Papua is one of the reasons trainer Mike Hushion has had such a strong meet with nine wins from 26 starters. Migliore rides him again Wednesday.

Clergy, who was 9-5 in the Derby Trial last spring before being sidelined, returned from a seven-month layoff on a sealed, thawing-out track last month and matched his career-top Beyer Figure with an encouraging fourth in an allowance race.

Quarter Ton of Fun surprised $65,000 claimers in the mud most recently, coming from well off the pace to win at 17-1.

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