04/05/2006 11:00PM

Track condition key in trio of stakes


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It's the first big racing day of the year in New York. The weather isn't likely to deteriorate as quickly as Wednesday, when a surprise snow squall led to a cancellation after the first three races, but a forecast for typical April showers is something to consider.

The late pick four on races 7-10, with a $500,000 guaranteed pool, begins with the Bay Shore, the Wood Memorial, and the Carter Handicap.

Bay Shore: The experienced Too Much Bling will vie for favoritism with Songster, who was fast and game in his first two starts at Gulfstream Park.

Songster will test Too Much Bling more extensively than anything the latter met winning the San Miguel and San Vicente in California. The two questions with Too Much Bling are whether he will be as effective on the deeper Eastern tracks, and whether Bute moved him up out West.

Songster is showing signs of becoming an elite 3-year-old sprinter. It took a track record of 1:21.11 for Exclusive Quality to get past him in the final strides of a March 4 allowance after Songster set fractions of 44.77 seconds and 1:08.55. Later on the card, Sharp Humor's Swale went in 44.58, 1:09.23, and 1:22.14. Exclusive Quality, a bullet trained by Team Pletcher, is now 3 for 4 after winning last week's Spectacular Bid, and he did it setting a faster pace than that of the Artax Handicap for older sprinters on the Florida Derby undercard.

Wood Memorial: It's Todd Pletcher's world, and we're just living in it. This race unraveled Thursday morning when Gotham winner Like Now spiked a fever and the promising Showing Up was declared because of a bruised foot, leaving the Pletcher-trained Keyed Entry the dominant early pace horse. Based on his freakish win in the Hutcheson and the fact that Deputy Glitters may scratch if it rains, Keyed Entry's chances only improve if the track is wet. The feeling is Keyed Entry will develop into a top-flight miler, but he will never have a better chance to win a Grade 1 at this distance.

Bob and John and Greeley's Legacy have the most realistic chances to catch Keyed Entry.

Bob and John, whose best races have come when he was right on top of the pace, cannot afford to lose position at the break as he did in the San Felipe. He recovered to rally five wide, in the best part of the track, but flattened out late and barely held third. His final workout for the Wood looks to have been more serious than his pre-San Felipe workout.

Only one winner on the Feb. 25 card at Aqueduct was worse than second at the first call, and that was Greeley's Legacy, who came from dead last to annihilate entry-level allowance routers. His close fourth in the Gotham was another big move forward.

Carter Handicap: As trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. observed, this renewal of the Carter "is a Grade 1 because that's what it says on the program. To me, the competition aside from Mass Media isn't full of Grade 1 horses."

Mass Media and Dutrow's Silver Train are the only ones who fit the Grade 1 description, but there are questions with both.

Silver Train has yet to run a big race away from Belmont Park, and if he is ready to rebound off a dismal seasonal debut at Gulfstream Park it will be in spite of minimal workout activity in the ensuing five weeks. Dutrow also has the entry of Kazoo and Call the Lord, and said he would probably scratch Silver Train if the track comes up wet, which makes this a tough race to handicap 48 hours out.

Mass Media is a mystery if it's wet, but his history on Aqueduct's main track includes a 115 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Sport Page in the fall of 2004, and a fine second in the Cigar Mile, in which he was the only early-pace horse anywhere close at the finish.

The late-blooming Happy Hunting, who returns from a designed freshening after putting on blinkers and winning 5 of 6 starts (on four tracks) at progressively higher class levels for trainer Shug McGaughey, may have a much bigger chance than his speed figures will suggest to most bettors. Recall that the McGaughey-trained Pleasant Home, the eventual 30-1 upsetter of the Breeders' Cup Distaff, was making her seventh career start and had no stakes experience when she won the Bed O' Roses Handicap (and recorded a new Beyer top) out of the Big A chute last April.

Like Pleasant Home, Happy Hunting wintered at Payson Park. He will be comfortable going seven furlongs on a wet track, and it's worth noting McGaughey compiled a 6-3-1 record from 14 starters at Aqueduct's 2005 spring meet.