11/05/2002 1:00AM

Smooth Jazz -if it's dry

Email

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Todd Pletcher was excited to learn that Thursday's third-level allowance race for 3-year-olds and up had filled. Furthermore, Pletcher was thrilled to learn that his entrant, Smooth Jazz, drew the outside post in the seven-horse field in Aqueduct's feature at one mile.

The only thing Pletcher was not thrilled about is the prospect of a wet track. "He doesn't have an affinity for it," Pletcher said. "I guess we'll have a decision to make it if it's wet."

An off track coupled with an inside post were the reasons Pletcher scratched Smooth Jazz out of the Sport Page Handicap on Oct. 26. While the forecast is good for Thursday, up to an inch of rain was scheduled to fall in New York on Wednesday, a dark day.

If the track is dry, Pletcher likes his chances with Smooth Jazz, who has not run since finishing a well-beaten fifth in the Grade 1 King's Bishop Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 24. He had the rail and caught a sloppy track that day.

Before that, Smooth Jazz won a second-level allowance race at Belmont and was third behind Voodoo and Aldebaran in a third-level allowance at Saratoga. In both races Smooth Jazz had the outside post and in both races he earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. While Smooth Jazz has not won beyond seven furlongs, Pletcher believes the one-turn mile should not be problematic.

"The way he ran seven-eighths in his two-other-than at Belmont, it's within his scope," Pletcher said. "It's a good distance to figure out which way to go with him."

Smooth Jazz has a tendency to get hot in the paddock, which is one reason Pletcher shipped him to Aqueduct from Belmont on Tuesday to school.

Unlike Pletcher, trainer Jennifer Pedersen is hoping the track comes up wet. Her entrant, Artax Too, posted his lone dirt win on an off track. Artax Too makes his first start on dirt since finishing last in the Belmont Stakes. He has run three times on turf since, with a win, a second, and a third.

Pedersen said Artax Too "severely bled" in the Belmont. He was turned out on a farm for a couple of months before coming back in the fall.

"He trains so well on dirt, I think he'll be a little different this time," Pedersen said.

Private Lap brings a three-race win streak into Thursday's feature. His last two wins came at Delaware Park for trainer Allen Iwinski, who claimed Private Lap for $35,000 in July.