03/11/2003 12:00AM

Re-drawn races look familiar


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - This is officially the first week of Aqueduct's spring meet, but nobody sent Mother Nature a condition book. Recent rain, sleet, and snow, along with persistent freeze-thaw cycles, have conspired to keep the main track in hibernation.

Last week's spate of cancellations means handicappers may experience a strong sense of deja vu as they peruse Thursday's card.

The fifth race, for example, is a restricted claimer for non-winners of two lifetime that was originally scheduled as the fourth race last Thursday, and then re-drawn again as last Saturday's 10th race. Perhaps the third time's the charm.

The eighth race is an entry-level allowance sprint that was originally last Saturday's fourth race. It has been brought back with the same seven older fillies and mares, just mixed up in different post positions.

As one might expect at this time of the season, it is not a particularly tough field. The two standouts from a Beyer Speed Figure perspective are Paugus Bay and Tudor Court, to be ridden respectively by the top two apprentices at the winter meet, Luis Chavez and John McKee.

Paugus Bay added Lasix for her most recent start and the result was a significant improvement to a lifetime top figure. Nevertheless, it's difficult to trust a 5-year-old mare who is still eligible for the preliminary allowance condition heading into her 26th career start.

Tudor Court posted a similarly big improvement winning by more than 10 lengths last time out, but did it against restricted claimers. Handicappers are entitled to be skeptical about what was behind her. Tudor Court will be tough with a repeat performance, even though her 10 previous starts came in claiming races.

Should neither Paugus Bay nor Tudor Court fire, the next tier of contenders are Crafty Wildcat, Formada, and Dancing Blues.

Crafty Wildcat dueled from the opening bell to midstretch in her local bow, and was beaten less than two lengths at 19-1.

Formada graduated from the maiden ranks on the inner track on Dec. 28. She is back from Gulfstream Park, after forcing the pace in a turf allowance last month.

Dancing Blues, a New York-bred filly who faced the likes of Carson Hollow last year, is the field's top money earner. She was recently a fast-closing second off a nine-month layoff.

Completing the field are Prime Juice, a New Jersey-bred who has been idle since November, and the erratic Surly Sue.

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