03/12/2008 12:00AM

Throbbin' Heart may wind up favorite by default in Cicada


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Despite its Grade 3 status, Saturday's $100,000 Cicada Stakes is expected to attract a small field of locally based 3-year-old fillies.

The Cicada lost its probable favorite when trainer Eddie Kenneally opted to point the Florida-based Keep the Peace to the $250,000 Beaumont at Keeneland next month. Keep the Peace, a New York-bred daughter of Touch Gold, recorded two strong victories against open company before getting beaten by a nose by Bsharpsonata in the Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream on Feb. 9.

Instead, another horse who raced at Gulfstream this winter could inherit the favorite's role. Throbbin' Heart, a daughter of Smoke Glacken trained by Steve Asmussen, has 3 wins and 2 seconds from 6 career starts. Her only bad race came in the Grade 2 Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream in January, when Throbbin' Heart chased a very hot pace before fading in the stretch to finish sixth, 18 1/4 lengths back.

"It was too hot for her down there," said Toby Sheets, the assistant to Asmussen, referring to the weather conditions. "She wasn't comfortable down there at all."

Shortly after the Old Hat, her connections shipped her to the Northeast, and after training at Belmont Park, Throbbin' Heart scored a 1 3/4-length victory in the Marshua Stakes at Laurel Park on Feb. 9.

"She won fairly easily, I thought," Sheets said. "She rated, sat nice, and responded when he asked her."

Throbbin' Heart already owns a win over Aqueduct's inner track, having taken the Xtra Heat Stakes by three lengths here last Dec. 6. Stewart Elliott, aboard for that win, will be back aboard Throbbin' Heart again on Saturday.

Gary Contessa is expected to provide the bulk of the Cicada field with Ready for Fortune and True Intentions, the first- and third-place finishers from last month's Dearly Precious, as well as Dill or No Dill, winner of the Ruthless Stakes in January. Carolyn's Cat, who beat Dill or No Dill in the T-Storm Stakes on Jan. 31, is also expected to run.

On Wednesday, Ready for Fortune blew out three furlongs in a bullet 35.88 seconds over Aqueduct's inner track.

Nite Light points to Excelsior

Nite Light, winner of three consecutive listed stakes, is being pointed to the Grade 2, $200,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap here on April 5.

On Monday, Nite Light worked five furlongs in 50.60 seconds over the Belmont Park training track, his first breeze since winning the John B. Campbell Handicap at Laurel Park on Feb. 16.

"He's been a very sound individual all winter and seems to be building more and more confidence," said Seth Benzel, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "We were very happy to see him cut back in distance and run the race he did."

Before the Campbell, run at 1 1/8 miles, Nite Light won the 1 1/2-mile Coyote Lakes on Dec. 5 and the 1 5/8-mile Gallant Fox on Dec. 26, both over the inner track.

"The effects of the winter campaign you cannot see at this point," Benzel said. "The races don't seem to be taking much out of him. It could be a little different story when the spring arrives and some of the better races, but I think he's put himself in a position to take a crack at some of the better handicap horses come the spring."

Nite Light is a son of Thunder Gulch out of the multiple Grade 1 winner Lite Light.

Holidays cause schedule change

Aqueduct will be dark the next two Sundays because of the Palm Sunday and Easter holidays.

The dark Sundays create a change in the entry schedule for the next two weeks. Entries for the next two Wednesday cards (March 19 and 26) will be taken on the preceding Friday, one day earlier than usual. Entries for the next two Thursday cards (March 20 and 27) will be taken on the preceding Saturday, also one day earlier than normal.

Jean Gilardi dies at 75

Jean Gilardi, wife of former jockey agent Vic Gilardi, died Wednesday of pancreatic cancer. She was 75.

A viewing was to be held Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Kraus Funeral Home, 1097 Hempstead Turnpike in Franklin Square, N.Y. There will also be a viewing on Friday at Bordentown Home for Funerals, 40 Crosswicks St., in Bordentown, N.J.

A funeral will be held Saturday at noon at Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Church, 45 Crosswicks St., in Bordentown.