02/09/2005 1:00AM

Silver Wagon suddenly back in form

Silver Wagon, back from knee surgery, pulls away from Value Plus in a race last Sunday. It was only his second start since last February.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Any questions about whether Grade 1 winner Silver Wagon would return to his best form after missing the majority of his 3-year-old campaign due to knee injuries were dispelled in the 1:16.23 it took to outgame Value Plus in a strong field of allowance horses on Sunday.

Silver Wagon was making only his second start since finishing third in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes here last February. A son of Wagon Limit, Silver Wagon finished a well-beaten fifth behind Medallist when launching his comeback in Calder's Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap on Dec. 18.

"I was very pleased with his performance," said Ralph Ziadie, who trains Silver Wagon for the Buckram Oak Farm. "The way he won showed me that he's back as good as he was before the layoff."

Silver Wagon, who captured Saratoga's Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at 2, was training for last year's Florida Derby when Ziadie noted that the colt was just not himself.

X-rays revealed that Silver Wagon had a chip in his left knee and a spur in the right knee.

Ziadie said he thinks running Silver Wagon in the Kenny Noe "was probably a mistake."

"As a result, I was looking for an easier spot to get his confidence back - although as things turned out the field for Sunday's race turned out to be very strong," he said.

Future plans for Silver Wagon are uncertain, Ziadie said.

"I'll take a look at the Richter Scale at seven furlongs, and he's also eligible for his nonwinners-of-three-other-than allowance condition. All I know for sure is that we're in no rush, and that I don't think I want to go beyond a mile with him this year."

Value Plus ran courageously to finish second behind Silver Wagon while making his first start since late June. In his last appearance here, Value Plus finished second, less than a length behind Friends Lake in the 2004 Florida Derby.

Eurosilver training well

Another of Buckram Oak's big guns who missed much of his 3-year-old campaign is Eurosilver. Runner-up in the Swale Stakes here last winter, Eurosilver made two starts near the end of 2004 after returning from a lengthy hiatus, and is in training with Carl Nafzger at Palm Meadows.

"He's coming along well right now," said Nafzger's assistant Ian Wilkes. "He just wasn't ready to run in big races like the Hal's Hope or Donn earlier in the meet, but he's getting closer."

Millennium Dragon heads Appleton

A strong field, led by defending champion Millennium Dragon, is shaping up for Saturday's Grade 3 Appleton Handicap. Among the other potential starters are the Todd Pletcher-trained Host, a Chilean-bred who is not to be confused with the John Kimmel-trained U.S-bred horse by the same name; Mr. Light, who set a world record for a mile on turf earlier in the meet; and Stormy Roman, Spruce Run, Remind, More Bourb, Keep Cool, and Bankruptcy Court.

The Appleton shares top billing Saturday with the Grade 3 Suwannee River Handicap for fillies and mares. Among the possible starters for the

1 1/16-mile Suwannee River are Angela's Love, Banyu Dewi, High Court, Honey Ryder, Key to the Cat, Savedbythelight, Snowdrops, and perhaps one of the Kiaran McLaughlin trained pair of Binya and Secret Heart - both of whom were also entered in Friday's allowance feature.

Snowdrops is winless in her last four starts after stringing together a four-race win streak, but continues to run well every time out for trainer Christophe Clement.

"She hasn't been winning but she's a very consistent filly, and hopefully with the right trip she can win Saturday," said Clement. Edgar Prado will ride Snowdrops.

Angela's Love, wire-to-wire winner of the Marshua's River Stakes here on Jan. 9, breezed four furlongs in 50.40 seconds at Palm Meadows on Wednesday.

Potts enjoying this winter

If jockey Clinton Potts didn't win a race here all meet he still would be ahead of the game after spending the past 12 winters riding in the cold and snow in Maryland and Pennsylvania. But Potts already has had considerable success in his first visit to Gulfstream, riding his sixth winner of the meet aboard Summer Dame in Wednesday's opener.

Potts decided to try riding in south Florida this winter, knowing he had first call for trainer John Zimmerman, whose stable accounted for nearly 200 winners in 2004. Then Potts - who finished fifth in the standings at Delaware Park last year - soon caught on with trainer Gary Johnson, for whom he rode Summer Dame and has had the majority of his success herer.

"I thought coming down was a good move since I had the opportunity to ride for John, and it also gave me a chance to perhaps better my business when I got back up to Delaware," Potts said. "Then Gary watched me ride a race, liked what he saw, and we've done nothing but good ever since."

Potts plans to ride out the majority of the meet here, then return to Delaware when that track reopens in April.