Stakes-filled opening weekend at Aqueduct

Thoroughbred racing action in New York moves to Aqueduct on Friday, with opening weekend featuring a "Welcome Back" event for patrons on the newly refurbished second floor, the simulcast of the Breeders' Cup from Santa Anita, and exciting live racing action.

A three-piece jazz ensemble stationed in the clubhouse lobby from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (EDT) on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will greet patrons entering the facility. From there, it's just a short ride by elevator or escalator to the redesigned second floor, where complimentary hors d'oevres and soft beverages will be passed from 2-4 p.m. on Friday and Sunday. Aqueduct's second floor has been fully repainted and outfitted with new carpeting, seating, handicapping carrels and flat screen televisions.

Admission to the Big A is always free, with admission gates opening at 11 a.m. on Friday, and a first race post time of 12:30 p.m. On Saturday, the first race will go off at 12:15 p.m. and through the end of November on most days at 12:20 p.m. (ET)

In addition to the Breeders' Cup simulcast on Friday and Saturday, Aqueduct offers live racing over the three-day opening weekend, highlighted by Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Red Smith Handicap on the turf and a pair of one-mile juvenile events on Sunday comprising the Grade 2, $200,000 Nashua and the Grade 3, $150,000 Tempted for fillies.

The Red Smith is the first of 11 graded stakes at the Big A in 2012, including the Holidayfest centerpieces of the meet, the Grade 1, $350,000 Cigar Mile Handicap and the Grade 1, $350,000 Gazelle for three-year-old fillies on November 24.

Holidayfest kicks off with the Grade 3, $150,000 Fall Highweight Handicap on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, with gates opening at 10 a.m. and a first race post time of 11:25 a.m. The action continues on Friday with the Grade 2, $200,000 Go For Wand Handicap for fillies and mares and a first race post time of noon. Joining the Cigar Mile and Gazelle on Saturday, which also has a first-race post time of noon, are the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen for two-year-olds and the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle for two-year-old fillies.

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) will offer a $250,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4 on Saturdays at Aqueduct beginning November 10.

Every Sunday, fans can play the popular "Pick the Pros and Ponies" contest for a chance to win $1,000 by correctly picking winners of four designated pro football games as well as the winners of races 3 and 5 on the day's card. The nationally acclaimed 2012 NYRA Tournament series continues at the Big A with the Aqueduct Handicapping Challenge scheduled for November 17-18.

Live racing is generally conducted Wednesday through Sunday, but the action doesn't stop for dark days. Simulcast and wagering is available seven days a week at the Belmont Café and at Aqueduct simulcast areas, with the exception of December 24-25.

Aqueduct will be closed for live racing from December 17 through Christmas Day and will reopen on December 26.

The opening day feature is the $75,000 Raging Fever, a seven-furlong dash for three-year-old fillies that have not won a graded stakes this year.

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