04/10/2003 11:00PM

It's Saarland in sea of slop


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Saarland, making only his second start since last year's Kentucky Derby, splashed home a 2 1/4-length winner in an allowance race Friday at Aqueduct.

The day wasn't fit for man or beast. Soaking rain on top of an already mucky track left the surface a sea of slop.

Under John Velazquez, Saarland, the 7-5 favorite in the five-horse field, raced close to the early leaders and drew off with a sixteenth remaining in the mile race.

Saarland covered the distance in 1:36.48.

Trainer Shug McGaughey, said his major objective for the 4-year-old Saarland is Belmont Park's summer handicap races. More immediately, the $100,000 Westchester at Belmont Park on May 7 and the $600,000 Pimlico Special on May 16 will be considered.

"I'm tickled to death - we were running in a mile race in this slop in only his second race in 11 months," McGaughey said.

Saarland's last start before Friday was an allowance race he won at Aqueduct on Nov. 15. That was his first race since surgery to remove ankle chips after he finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby.

Beautiful America to Park Avenue

Trainer Mike Hernandez said Beautiful America came out of her third-place finish in a Thursday allowance race in good shape and will run next in the $100,000 Park Avenue Stakes on April 27.

The one-mile Park Avenue is restricted to the progeny of New York stallions.

If Beautiful America wins the Park Avenue and the $250,000 Statue of Liberty, a new addition to the Stallion Stakes on June 8 at Belmont, her owners, Chester and Mary Broman, will win a $100,000 bonus. Beautiful America became eligible for the bonus by winning a division of the New York Stallion Stakes last November.

Beautiful America, last year's champion New York-bred 2-year-old filly, made her first start since December in Thursday's six-furlong race. Racing as the favorite and ridden for the first time by Shaun Bridgmohan, Beautiful America contested the pace from the rail and weakened in the stretch and was beaten 1 1/4 lengths by the winner, Uphill Skier.

"I imagine she was feeling sharp from the layoff, but she ran good and it was the first time [Bridgmohan] rode her and he doesn't know her well," Hernandez said.

Hernandez said Beautiful America's regular rider, Jose Santos, who rode at Keeneland Thursday, will be on the filly in the Park Avenue.

Wonder Again's 2003 debut soon

Grade 1 winner Wonder Again, who hasn't run since October, is three weeks away from the start of her 2003 campaign. The 4-year-old Wonder Again has been breezing at Payson Park in Florida and is expected to arrive in New York April 21.

Trainer Jimmy Toner said he is planning on running Wonder Again, who won two grass stakes in New York last year, in the $100,000-added Beaugay at Aqueduct on May 3. The 1 1/16-mile Beaugay is the first turf stakes for fillies and mares on the New York calendar.

"She had a good winter and put on some weight," said Toner, who trains Wonder Again for John and Joan Phillips. "We're looking forward to a good year from her. I think last year we crammed so much in a short time and it showed on her. We basically had to get her head together."

After winning a maiden race at Belmont in June, Wonder Again reeled off wins in three consecutive starts, including the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga and the Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont. She finished fifth as the co-favorite in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 12.