09/28/2005 11:00PM

No throwouts in Flower Bowl Invitational


ELMONT, N.Y. - Handicappers will need sharp pencils to sort through the contenders in the Grade 1, $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park.

"It's a very evenly matched field of horses," said trainer Jimmy Toner, who sends out Wonder Again. "They are all so competitive. It's going to be a tough race. It's a well-balanced bunch of fillies. There are no throwouts in the race."

The 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares attracted a strong field of fillies and mares prepping for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Belmont on Oct. 29.

Wonder Again, while winless in three starts this year, should be a major factor. The winner of the Grade 1 Diana Handicap at Saratoga last summer, she went on to finish third in Breeders' Cup, beaten only 1 3/4 lengths by the winner, Ouija Board.

, 6, has been competitive in all three of her races this year, including a neck loss in the Grade 2 New York Handicap at Belmont on July 2.

"I think it's more luck than anything that she hasn't won," Toner said. "She is, I feel, as good as she's ever been, and she's run as good as she possibly could. We didn't get the luck of the draw with some outside post positions, and we wound up in some paceless races."

, in the midst of a stellar season, should ensure an honest pace in the Flower Bowl. A 5-year-old trained by Bill Mott, Sand Springs has won 3 of her last 4, including the Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga last time out. She has strong early speed, something jockey Jerry Bailey will try to ration.

"She kind of takes you up there, and you're not going to drag her back behind the rest of the field or anything like that," Mott said. "She breaks and goes and you try to sit quietly and nurse her along as far as she'll go."

Sand Springs has run five races this season, ranging from a mile to 1 1/8 miles. The Flower Bowl, at 1 1/4 miles, offers a fresh challenge for her this year.

Distance has not been an issue for the 3-year-old Melhor Ainda. A daughter of Pulpit trained by Bobby Frankel, Melhor Ainda has won 4 of 6 starts and was a bit unlucky in her last two, both Grade 1 stakes. She was a rallying second in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park and shook loose very late in the Beverly D. at Arlington Park only to lose by a neck.

Angara, the Beverly D. winner, took the unusual route of prepping for the Flower Bowl by running against the boys in Belmont's Grade 1 Man o' War, finishing fifth.

"She cannot train too much and I needed to run her," trainer Patrick Biancone said of running her in the Man o' War. "She ran a good race. The aim was to get ready for this. We're going step by step to get to the Breeders' Cup."

Riskaverse won last year's Flower Bowl at 8-1. The price could be even longer this time, given the depth of the field.

Also in the field are Film Maker, runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf; Lune d'Or, a multiple stakes winner in France; Secret Charm; and Sundrop.

The field

Flower Bowl Invitational
Purse: $750,000; 1 1/4 miles; Grade 1

1Secret CharmC. Nakatani11912-1
2Lune d'OrT. Jarnet12112-1
3Wonder AgainE. Prado1214-1
4SundropJ. Castellano11915-1
5AngaraJ. Bravo1233-1
6Sand SpringsJ. Bailey1237-2
7Film MakerT. Kabel11912-1
8Melhor AindaJ. Velazquez1155-2
9RiskaverseJ. Santos12120-1

* Odds by Art Gropper