07/29/2005 11:00PM

Sand Springs gets her Grade 1

Sand Springs, under John Velazquez up, wins the Diana Handicap wire to wire on Saturday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A mile to a mile and a sixteenth has been Sand Springs's best game, but on Saturday at Saratoga she became a Grade 1 winner and a millionaire in the 1 1/8-mile .

Under John Velazquez, Sand Springs, the 2-1 favorite, led from start to finish over the inner turf to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Que Puntual. Angara finished third, a head behind Que Puntual. Second choice Film Maker finished fourth, beaten 3 1/4 lengths by the winner. Winendynme, Delta Princess, and Shadow Cast completed the order of finish.

Wonder Again, last year's winner, was scratched to run in the Beverly D. at Arlington Park on Aug. 13. Spotlight and Finery also were scratched.

The race set up perfectly for Sand Springs, who set an unpressured pace through fractions of 24.98 seconds, 48.33, 1:12.22, and 1:35.40. The final time was 1:46.91 over a firm course.

Velazquez, who won his third Diana, said Sand Springs got into an easy groove when she made the lead soon after leaving the starting gate.

"She broke all alone and then relaxed," Velazquez said. "She was there for me when I asked."

Sand Springs ($6.10) carried 120 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Diana.

Film Maker, the runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, was never a serious factor.

"She didn't run her race at all," trainer Graham Motion said. "She just didn't fire. I don't have an explanation. The only thing I can think is the real firm ground."

Sand Springs is trained by Bill Mott and owned by Sangster Family Stable, which purchased the 5-year-old for $625,000 at the November breeding stock sale at Keeneland from Willmott Stables. Last year, when trained by Tony Reinstedler, Sand Springs finished fourth in the Diana.

It was the first time Mott has won the Diana, and he said the pace made all the difference. He also noted the absence of Wonder Again.

"That didn't hurt our chances," he said. "A lot has to do with the pace and that is what happened today."

Sand Springs earned $300,000 for her Diana win and boosted her earnings to $1,226,558.

The Diana was Sand Springs's third stakes win this year. She also won the Grade 2 Just a Game Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park and the Grade 3 Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park.