In racing, perhaps more than anywhere else, perception truly is reality in the mind of horse playing paranoids.

A curious thing occurred at Aqueduct yesterday that probably was innocent and can be easily explained. So maybe track officials should use the track announcer to disseminate information that might prove useful to bettors.

When late changes were announced prior to yesterdays first race, some jockey assignments turned out to be a little strange. See what you think.

Johnny Velazquez had eight mounts on the nine race program. However, track announcer Tom Durkin announced before the opener that Velazquez would be replaced in two of the first five races.

Rajiv Maragh would replace Velazquez aboard Bethpage Black in the first and Ramon Dominguez would replace him on Dancing Tin Man in the fifth. Velazquez would, however, honor his assignments aboard Todd Pletcher first-timer Southern Terminus in the second and aboard Hainesport in the third.

The reasons for the changes were probably innocent: A typo on the program, or a mistake made by an agent, or the racing office inadvertently listed the wrong rider. Something, anything.

Now if one wanted to be paranoid, he would think Velazquez would never fool around with main man Pletcher and this first-timer must be really live. Or not. But in the case of Dancing Tin Man, what? Its not like Dominguez represented a major step down. Some would say quite the contrary.

But why does a horseplayer need to be thinking about anything besides trying to pick a winner? I realize decision making is handicapping, part of the process of picking a winner. But there are plenty of other things to make decisions about.

So, what happens? Of course, the Pletcher newcomer wisely gets bet down to 5-2 and wins with authority, 25 minutes after Bethpage Black finishes unplaced in the opener. Ah-ha!

But then Dominguez times his late run perfectly on Dancing Tin Man and nails favorite Lord Louis right on the wire. And what does this all mean?

Probably nothing, except that Saturdays tend to attract the more casual fan, some who actually bet on their favorite jockey.

What happened yesterday screwed with peoples minds, and its not like racetracks can or should treat a dwindling fan base so cavalierly.

All were saying is that the betting public is entitled to an explanation of some kind when something strange occurs, even if you have to make up the answer.