03/01/2002 12:00AM

Second chance does trick


JAMAICA, N.Y. - As a 6-year-old and a Group 1 winner in Argentina, La Galerie was a prime candidate for the breeding shed this year. But her connections knew she was a better horse than she showed in her two years racing in North America and wanted to give her one more opportunity to prove them right.

La Galerie began doing that on Jan. 17 when she won a classified allowance race by 9 3/4 lengths over the inner track. La Galerie will continue her progression to stakes company on Sunday when she runs in another six-furlong allowance race, the featured event on Aqueduct's nine-race card.

In nine starts in North America, La Galerie has managed three allowance victories. But, in five stakes tries, she could finish no better than third. Trainer John Kimmel said La Galerie has been inhibited by foot problems throughout her career. When she ran in January, her feet were in good order, which is why Kimmel wasn't surprised by her strong performance. La Galerie earned a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure last out.

"I always knew it was in there," Kimmel said Friday from Florida. "She's just had chronic foot problems, quarter cracks. When she's right, I always felt she was quite a quality filly. For that reason we decided not to retire her; we didn't get to see her true quality."

Kimmel had planned on running La Galerie in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap last month. But, Kimmel elected to put a full shoe on La Galerie - she had been running in a three-quarter shoe - and another quarter crack developed.

"It wasn't a bad one," Kimmel said. "We had to take the shoe off put and put a little repair patch on it. She missed three days of training. We went back to the three-quarter shoe."

Kimmel is hoping to use Sunday's race as a prep for the $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap March 30.

Kimmel's stable has been on quite a roll the last five weeks in New York. Of the last 15 horses it has run in New York - assistant Loretta Lusteg saddles his horses here - Kimmel's stable has eight wins, two seconds and five thirds. The last Kimmel-trained horse to finish out of the money was Erin Moor on Jan. 21.

If La Galerie is to win, she will have to deal with the likes of Maddie May, Radiance, and Kidsarefun, who are all coming off sharp allowance wins.

Diversa bounces back beautifully

Another Kimmel-trained filly, Diversa, returned to her stakes-winning form Thursday when she won a third-level allowance race by 12 1/2 lengths. It snapped a seven-race losing streak, dating back to last March when she won the Busanda Stakes.

"She ran a very creditable race to Summer Colony, who has become a Grade 1 winner and handled all the best fillies in California," Kimmel said, referring to a Nov. 23 allowance race. "We gave her a pretty good run and it took the starch out of her. It took a few races to cycle back to the filly we saw that day."

Kimmel said he will nominate Diversa to the Next Move Handicap on March 29. However, he may have others for that race, including Miss Linda, Indy Glory, La Tour and Unbridled Waters.

Wilzada pointed to Cicada

Tony Dutrow has stakes winners Touch Love, Totaly Wild, and Nice Boots Baby, but the best 3-year-old filly in his barn may be Wilzada. A daughter of Meadowlake, Wilzada won a preliminary allowance race by 3 1/2 lengths here on Thursday, making her 2 for 2. She will be pointed to the $100,000, Grade 3 Cicada Stakes on March 23.

Both of Wilzada's wins have come at six furlongs, but Dutrow thinks she will get better going longer.

"I never thought she was a six-furlong horse, but the Cicada has been on my mind for six weeks," Dutrow said after the race. "I wanted to give her some more experience; that's why she's here today. I got Touch Love and Nice Boots Baby and I thought this one is better than them. I'm going to the Cicada. I think I'm right where I want to be."

Assistant trainer punished for punch

Michael Tannuzzo, an assistant trainer to Chuck Simon, was fined $250 and placed on one year's probation by the Backstretch Area Violations Panel after throwing a punch at jockey Aaron Gryder following the running of the third race on Feb. 23.

Gryder was aboard Pashmina, who veered in at the break and threw her head in the air several times before Gryder was able to control her. Pashmina, trained by Simon, made a run to gain contention, but flattened out to finish sixth.

David Hicks, the New York Racing Association steward, said that Tannuzzo could be ejected from the grounds "for a long time" if he's found to commit any more violations during the next year.

"If he had a problem, he should've come to the stewards," said Hicks, who serves on the panel, along with Mike Prunetti, John Tierney, and Robert Flynn.

* Travis Dunkelberger, who suffered a cracked rib during a spill here on Feb. 9, is targeting March 9 for his return, according to agent Frank Sanabria.