Updated on 09/16/2011 9:30AM

Rite of fall starts with Discovery


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - There is a nip in the air and the trees are beginning to change color. That can only mean one thing on the New York Racing Association calendar: It's time for Aqueduct's fall meet.

Aqueduct opens its doors on Wednesday for a 48-day meet, which runs through Dec. 29. Post time for the opener is 12:30 p.m.

The feature on the opening-day card is the 58th running of the $100,000-added Discovery Handicap, a Grade 3 for 3-year-olds. The last two winners of the 1 1/8-mile Discovery, Left Bank and Evening Attire, went on to become top handicap stars.

Thirty-three stakes, worth a total of $3.85 million, will be run at the Big A meet. Twenty-one of Aqueduct's fall stakes are graded races, including the lone Grade 1 at the meet, the $350,000 Cigar Mile on Nov. 30. The Cigar Mile is one of three stakes run that day and will be joined by a pair of Grade 2's for 2-year-olds, the $200,000 Remsen and $200,000 Demoiselle.

The Cigar Mile, Remsen, and Demoiselle are part of NYRA's HolidayFest Weekend, which begins on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, with the $100,000-added Fall Highweight Handicap. Other stakes on the HolidayFest schedule are the $150,000 Top Flight Handicap to be run the day after Thanksgiving and the $75,000-added Montauk, which wraps up the weekend on Sunday, Dec. 1.

Racing on the inner-track, over Aqueduct's winterized mile oval, is scheduled to begin Dec. 4 and run through the middle of March.

The return to Aqueduct means 1 1/8-mile races on the main track become true routes and will be run around two turns, compared with Belmont Park, where races at that distance start in the chute, with a long run down the backstretch.

With a short run into the first turn in Aqueduct's 1 1/8-mile races, inside posts are generally preferred. The Discovery, which drew a full and competitive field of 13, is a case in point. A.P. Five Hundred, one of the main contenders, drew poorly in the outside post.

"That certainly isn't much fun," A.P. Five Hundred's trainer, Niall O'Callaghan, said of the draw.

A.P. Five Hundred, who was assigned 118 pounds as the co-highweight with Grade 2 Pegasus winner Regal Sanction, was flown from Kentucky to New York on Monday.

Bought for $700,000 as a yearling at Saratoga, A.P. Five Hundred, a son of A. P. Indy, is seeking his first stakes win after finishing third in the Round Table, Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby, and Grade 2 Super Derby.

A.P. Five Hundred will race with blinkers on for the first time in the Discovery.

"He's just a tad lazy, but once you get after him he's quite game," O'Callaghan said. "I think the blinkers will keep him in the hunt, without the rider having to [work on him]."

Jorge Chavez will ride A.P. Five Hundred.

Regal Sanction became a stakes winner in the Pegasus, which was run over a sloppy track, with his head win over No Parole, another Discovery entrant.

"This is a step up off the Pegasus but he seems all right," said Jimmy Jerkens, Regal Sanction's trainer. "I think he's still improving."

Regal Sanction drew post 6 and will be ridden by Jose Santos, who is coming off a terrific Belmont meet, where he was second among jockeys with 34 victories.

Impressive allowance winners Saint Marden and Strive are eligible to run big races.



RACING SCHEDULE: 48 days. Wednesday through Dec. 29. Tuesdays dark, except for Election Day Nov. 5. Dark on Nov. 6. Christmas break Dec. 22 through Dec. 25.

POST TIME: 12:30 p.m. daily. 11 a.m. on Oct. 26 (Breeders' Cup) and Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving). Noon on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30.

ADMISSIONS: $1 general; $3 clubhouse.

PARKING: $1 general; $2 preferred; $5 valet.

DIRECTIONS TO TRACK: Ozone Park, N.Y. Lefferts Blvd. exit off of the Belt Parkway.

MEET HIGHLIGHT: $350,000 Cigar Mile (Nov. 30); $200,000 Remsen (Nov. 30); $200,000 Demoiselle (Nov. 30); $150,000 Top Flight (Nov. 29); $150,000 Red Smith (Nov. 23); $150,000 Long Island (Nov. 16); $150,000 Knickerbocker (Nov. 2); $150,000 First Flight (Oct. 26).

PHONE: (718) 641-4700

INTERNET: www.nyra.com