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Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Marathon meet comes to an end

By Bob Ehalt

It’s finally time for a change of scenery.

After a winter that had far too many breakdowns, hardly any snow and illustrated how all that glitters isn’t gold, the New York Racing Association’s marathon six-month stay at Aqueduct comes to an end Sunday.
On Friday, April 27, Beautiful Belmont Park will open its doors, signaling that we’re just seven weeks away from the Belmont Stakes and only 13 weeks shy of Saratoga.

OK, we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit, yet let’s just say it’s nice to envision racing somewhere else other than Ozone Park.

Looking back, the Big A’s inner and main track meets featured a surprising number of stars with horses like Gemologist, Hansen, Alpha, Jackson Bend, Caleb’s Posse and It’s Tricky in action.

The final weekend looms a bit anti-climactic after races such as the Wood and Carter, but at the very least Saturday’s $200,000 Jerome features a 3-year-old who might have an axe to grind later in the year in some of the more important middle distance graded stakes. The Lumber Guy was an easy winner of his first start at Aqueduct and the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel. Then he was cut down to size by Gemologist after setting the early pace in the mile-and-an-eighth Wood Memorial, as he faded to sixth.

While that loss hammered the final nail in the coffin as far as The Lumber Guy’s Triple Crown hopes go, trainer Mike Hushion apparently has no interest in allowing his colt to pick up splinters sitting on the bench. Returning on just two weeks rest, The Lumber Guy should find the one-turn mile and the competition -- which may include Adirondack King, Dan and Sheila, Guyana Star Dweej, Right to Vote and Sensor -- much more to his liking.

“It’s back quicker than I’d like, but I’m anxious to run him in a one-turn mile,” Hushion said. “I think that’s the key. A rider can just come out there real quietly, wherever he wants to take him, and make them sort it out for a half-mile down the backside.”

The Jerome closes out Aqueduct’s stakes schedule, and then after Sunday’s card, it’s off to Beautiful Belmont where racing will take place without slot machines to lure people to the grounds.

Won’t that be an interesting sight?