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 excitin

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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