03/27/2002 1:00AM

Wake at Noon looks primed for big season


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Another year, another winning stakes debut for Wake at Noon.

Showing no signs of slowing down at age 5, Wake at Noon registered an impressive victory in last Saturday's $96,800 Briartic Handicap, the opening-day feature at this marathon Woodbine meeting.

Wake at Noon, a homebred who races for Bruno Schickedanz, had won the Achievement in his first start here at 3 and the Jacques Cartier in his opener here last April.

And while the Briartic was contested over the abbreviated distance of five furlongs and positioned as a stepping-stone to this year's Jacques Cartier two weeks later, Wake at Noon's success came as no surprise to his trainer, Abraham Katryan.

"I expected him to run his best race because he spent the winter in Ocala [Fla.], at the Schickedanz farm," said Katryan, who has 34 horses here.

"Last year, we were unfortunate that we couldn't get him down there, due to weather circumstances. That was one of his biggest problems - we had to rush to get ready here, and that took a lot out of him."

Wake at Noon's campaign after the Cartier last year hardly was a bust, as he finished second in three straight graded stakes, including two south of the border. But he did not win again until he defeated allowance company in his eighth start of the year, and he lost his last two stakes tries here.

"This year he came back really nice and fresh," said Katryan. "He gained some weight, and he feels really good. The race didn't seem to take anything out of him at all."

Wake at Noon's next task will be to defend his title in the $125,000 Jacques Cartier, a six-furlong race on April 7.

"After that we'll take a break and go across the border," said Katryan. "What we plan for him this year is to give him time off, maybe just to run seven or eight races, and run him in the best spots that he can run in."

Runaway Love and Deputy Carson also are trained by Katryan and are among the 11 nominees to the Cartier, but only Runaway Love is under consideration for the race.

"It's just a possibility," said Katryan, who trains Runaway Love for owners Harry Pais and Martin Dinkin. "He's just coming around - he had a good year last year. He should be a strong factor in the Ontario-sired stakes."

Runaway Love, a 5-year-old gelding, is by Regal Classic out of First Class Gal and is a full brother to Canadian champion One Way Love.

Deputy Carson, claimed for $40,000 by Schickedanz last fall, will be aimed for an allowance race.

"I really don't know, at this point in time, if he's a stake horse," said Katryan. "But he trains well."

Exciting Story to return

Wake at Noon's Cartier competition should include Exciting Story, who ran second in last year's edition but then defeated Wake at Noon here in the seven-furlong Vigil.

Exciting Story, owned by Harry T. Mangurian Jr.'s Mockingbird Farm and trained by Mark Casse, went on to record a major upset in Belmont's Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap but has been winless in five subsequent outings, including two this year.

A 5-year-old Florida-bred, Exciting Story last raced in Laurel's Feb. 18 General George, in which he finished sixth, and then returned to his winter base in Ocala before shipping north to Woodbine last week. He recorded his first local 2002 drill here on Tuesday, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.20.

Casse and Mangurian also plan to be represented here in the April 6 Star Shoot, with Jealous Forum pointing to the six-furlong stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Jealous Forum, a Florida-bred, would be making her first start since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, in which she finished eighth.

Working out the bugs

Woodbine's giant new video display board debuted to generally favorable reviews opening weekend. But on the left side of the board, where the odds are posted, Woodbine was forced to use the in-house television odds screen because the new programming was not ready.

Steve Mitchell, vice-president of wagering operations for the Woodbine Entertainment Group, said the new board will be fully operational by the weekend.

"You can put a simulcast signal out there, you can put out an odds screen, or you can actually program it to try to do something brand-new, which is what we want to try to do," he said.

"The way it's being done is that we'll be able to display the up to 16 runners on the odds side and it permanently keeps up the win-place-show statistics. It's got pool totals, and the Teletimer. It also will do the unofficial order of finish, and the more traditional type of stuff."

* Christopher Griffith has appealed a three-day suspension issued by the stewards, who had ruled the jockey had come in with his mount, Expect a Mint, and interfered with Grazettes during the stretch run of the seventh race here opening day. Expect a Mint finished second but was disqualified and placed fourth, with Grazettes moving up to third.