03/28/2005 1:00AM

Offlee Wild appears sharp for Excelsior


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Offlee Wild may have come up a neck short in last month's John Campbell Breeders' Cup Handicap at Laurel Park, but the performance showed he is as good and tough as he was last summer when he upset Funny Cide in the Massachusetts Handicap.

Now, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. is hoping the 5-year-old Offlee Wild can retain that form on Saturday when he runs in the Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct. Among Offlee Wild's challengers in the Excelsior will be Coast Line, who held Offlee Wild at bay in the stretch of the Campbell.

Last Saturday, Offlee Wild indicated his readiness for the rematch with a sizzling six-furlong workout in 1:11.29 over Aqueduct's main track. It was the fastest by 3.32 seconds of seven works at the distance that day.

"I had to miss a few days because of the weather and just stuff so I needed to get a good breeze in him,'' Dutrow said. "He was ready for it, that's why I let him go like he did. I'll just give him an easy three-eighths a couple of days before the race. I think he's better than ever."

The Campbell marked Offlee Wild's first race in eight months. Shortly after the Mass Cap, Offlee Wild began to have a problem with his suspensory. He underwent check ligament surgery, performed by Dr. Larry Bramlage, who also cleaned debris out of the horse's knees and ankles, according to Dutrow.

"He's always had issues with his knees and ankles,'' Dutrow said. "There was nothing major with them, I figured while we had to stop on him we might as well do everything that we can with him."

Offlee Wild was assigned 121 pounds for the nine-furlong Excelsior. Coast Line will carry 117 pounds. Others expected to run include Presidentialaffair (117), Country be Gold (115), Cuba (113), and Salic Law (113).

Zakocity forced to miss Excelsior

With New York prohibiting horses to ship in from Florida through at least Saturday due to the strangles disease, Zakocity will be forced to skip the Excelsior. Trainer Pat Reynolds has now gone to plan B and will run Zakocity in the Skip Away Handicap at Gulfstream on Saturday. Jerry Bailey will ride.

Reynolds was hoping to ship Zakocity and a few other horses here over the weekend. But on Friday, the New York Racing Association put a restriction on horses shipping here from any south Florida facility until after April 2, and then only after a horse has produced a negative test for strangles.

Reynolds liked the Excelsior for Zakocity because he won the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap going 1 1/8 miles over the main track last October.

"If all goes well, maybe it'll be a little easier on him, it's not the worst thing in the world," Reynolds said of the Skip Away. "He's run two dynamite races over the track and he couldn't be doing any better so we got our fingers crossed."

In two starts at Gulfstream, Zakocity finished second in the Sunshine Millions Classic and third in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Reynolds was one of several trainers looking to ship horses in from Florida last weekend. Phil Serpe had six booked on a van for Sunday that had to stay at Palm Meadows, where a few cases of strangles have been diagnosed. Mark Hennig had four or five he was looking to van in earlier this week. Hennig is not stabled at Palm Meadows.

"There's not much we can do till they give us the green light," Serpe said. "There are some sick horses down there. That doesn't mean the whole place is sick. I think a lot of these things are questionable."

Santos returns to New York

Horses may be prohibited from shipping in from south Florida, but jockeys are not.

With two known exceptions, Jose Santos will return to New York on a full-time basis beginning Wednesday. Santos is booked to ride five mounts on Wednesday's card, including Auntie Inda Attic in the day's featured second-level allowance race.

According to agent Mike Sellitto, Santos will ride in New York on a regular basis with the exception of Saturday, when he will be at Gulfstream for the Florida Derby card, and April 8, when he rides Drum Major in a stakes at Keeneland.

Among his first major mounts back here will be Medallist, who is being pointed to the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 9.

Shuvee next for Daydreaming

Daydreaming came out of her victory in last Friday's Next Move Handicap in good order, trainer Shug McGaughey said, and will most likely make her next start in the Grade 2, $200,000 Shuvee Handicap at Belmont on May 21.

Though McGaughey prefers Daydreaming around two turns, "she's still got enough kick to be competitive" around one turn. The Shuvee and Ogden Phipps Handicap are both run around one turn. Daydreaming won the Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct last fall, a one-turn mile race.

* Bank Audit, winner of the Distaff Breeders' Cup, will likely make her next start in the Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap on April 23, trainer Frank Laboccetta Jr. said.