02/27/2006 12:00AM

Bandini and Silver Wagon begin year

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HALLANDALE BEACH - It's not often a third-level allowance race lures a pair of Grade 1 stakes winners, but that will be the case when Bandini and Silver Wagon run in a field of eight at a mile on Wednesday at Gulfstream Park.

will be making his first start since coming out of his 19th-place finish in the 2005 Kentucky Derby with a small chip in his right front ankle. A son of Fusaichi Pegasus, he had won three of his previous four starts, including the Grade 1 Blue Grass by six lengths. His only loss in that span was a second behind High Fly at Gulfstream Park in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.

"I'd like to get a race under his belt before jumping into the deep end, but this is not exactly an easy spot," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "He's trained well without overdoing it, and he's where we'd want him to be for his first start of the year."

If all were to go well on Wednesday, Pletcher said, Bandini could make his next start in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 8.

won Saratoga's Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at 2. Now 5, the son of Wagon Limit captured just 1 of 9 starts in 2005, with the victory coming at Gulfstream in his season debut in a second-level allowance race. Silver Wagon has kept a steady diet of graded-stakes company during most of the campaign. His best efforts were a second behind Ghostzapper in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Forego.

Silver Wagon was scheduled to make his 2006 debut over the turf in the Appleton Handicap on Feb. 11 but was scratched because of the death of his owner, Mahmoud Fustok, earlier that week.

could have the best chance of upsetting his two Grade 1-winning rivals. Wanderin Boy was an impressive allowance winner over this track in his 2005 debut, then stepped up to score a mild upset in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds. But his season ended abruptly following a seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 12.

Wanderin Boy returned to action here last month under conditions similar to Wednesday's main event, finishing a game second behind the promising Istan after being hard-used contesting the pace. Unfortunately, he figures to get similar pace pressure in this spot, from Record Buster and Halos Sailing Sain.