The Friday feature at Aqueduct, a preliminary allowances for New York breds at a two-turn nine furlongs, boasts a strong early line favorite in Optimistic Steve (8-5). The Nick Zito trainee is the fastest horse by virtue of a maiden win going a mile against open company at Gulfstream, then was ambitiously spotted in the Tampa Bay Derby. Back to reality here with a suitable pedigree for the added distance. He's a deserving favorite.

But this race is no walkover for the likely odds-on choice. Any of three rivals are not without a license, including Shoplifting from the rail at 12-1. The two more likely upset candidates, however, are Raven H (4-1) and Your Hour's Up (7-2).

Longshot Shoplifting had one start on this surface. Not only did he emerge 1-for-1 but earned a lifetime best figure in the process. He apparently loves this racetrack. And the pole doesn't hurt with the short run into the first turn. Low profile connections should insure inflated odds.

Raven H has really improved at 3 for Tom Bush. A repeat of either of his last two efforts would seriously contend here, and he's had ample time to recover and a sharp workout since his most recent top-figure score. The ubiquitous Pletcher barn sends out Your Hour's Up, whose on a strong performance figure line and is expected to move forward once again. An improving three-year-old is especially dangerous at this time of year, especially in the right hands.

I would call Optimistic Steve the most probable winner. But that's not always the way to bet. Instead, we'll take a small win wager on longshot Shoplifting but, more significantly, key him second and third in trifectas with the favorite, Raven H and Your Hour's Up.

Running Totals Through Wednesday Results: (13) 5-4-2 ROI: $32.10