03/27/2006 12:00AM

Racing switches to main track


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The mercury reached into the mid-50's on Monday. People were already dreading losing an hour's sleep this weekend when daylight savings time begins. And racing returns to Aqueduct's main track on Wednesday.

Yes, spring has finally arrived.

After 16 weeks and 76 cards of racing on Aqueduct's inner track, racing moves to the more spacious main track Wednesday for the first of 23 dates. The main track offers more variety in that one-turn races can be carded anywhere from five furlongs to one mile.

There will be 12 stakes totaling $2.3 million offered during the meet, highlighted by the Grade 1 Wood Memorial for 3-year-olds and the Grade 1 Carter Handicap for older sprinters, both on April 8. The top four finishers from the Gotham - Like Now, Keyed Entry, Sweetnorthernsaint, and Greeley's Legacy - as well as the unbeaten and lightly raced Strong Contender are among horses pointing to the Wood.

Though top guns John Velazquez, Edgar Prado, and Javier Castellano are not likely to ride here regularly until late April, the jockey colony has picked up Hall of Fame riders Kent Desormeaux and Mike Smith for the spring.

New York outfits that usually winter in south Florida will begin trickling in over the next few weeks. Barclay Tagg was to ship in 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide and the undefeated 3-year-old Showing Up on Tuesday. Funny Cide is scheduled to run in Saturday's Grade 3 Excelsior Breeders' Cup. Showing Up may run in the Wood.

Tempering the enthusiasm for the opening of the main track is Wednesday's nondescript nine-card card that features four maiden-claiming events. The feature is a second-level allowance race for fillies and mares at one mile. A field of six was entered with no clear-cut favorite.

, one of three New York-breds in the field, has posted two of her four career victories in one-turn mile races. She comes off a win in a two-turn mile entry-level allowance.

and Samsincharge loom the primary speed threats in the field. Say Hey Willie makes her first start off the Scott Lake claim and lures Ramon Dominguez. Merrill Gold completes the field.