08/10/2005 11:00PM

The softer the better for Wonder Again

Melhor Ainda is a rare commodity in the Beverly D. - a 3-year-old who is favored against elders. But trainer Bobby Frankel says she deserves it.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Jimmy Toner scratched Wonder Again from the Diana Handicap at Saratoga in large part because the mare was assigned a far outside post. Toner was hoping for a better draw for Saturday's Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington, but as luck would have it, Wonder Again again drew the outside post in a field of 10.

So when a steady rain started falling Thursday morning at Arlington, Toner was glad to hear some good news.

"Finally, something's going right," Toner said with a laugh.

, a multiple Grade 1 winner on turf, prefers as much precipitation as Mother Nature is willing to give. Last summer, she romped to back-to-back victories over off courses in the New York and Diana handicaps, so wet conditions on Saturday clearly would improve her chances in what shapes up as a sensational 16th running of the $750,000 Beverly D.

Toner said he is glad he waited the additional two weeks following the July 30 Diana. "The 10-hole on the Saratoga turf is such a disadvantage," he said. "At Arlington, you've got a quarter-mile run to the turn, so it's not nearly that big a deal."

This is the first time Toner will be at Arlington since he saddled Memories of Silver, owned by John and Joan Phillips, to victory in the 1997 Beverly D. Wonder Again, an earner of nearly $1.2 million, also is owned by the Phillips family. "We're hoping to have as much luck as we had there last time," said Toner.

Wonder Again, with Edgar Prado to ride, figures as fourth or fifth choice in the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D. The likely favorites include another New York shipper, , and the uncoupled Bobby Frankel-trained duo of Melhor Ainda and Megahertz. Among several of the fringe contenders are Sundrop, Mona Lisa, and Angara.

, owned by T N T Stud, was phenomenal in opening her career with four victories before being upset by the Japanese filly Cesario in her last start, the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park. Although it is rare for a 3-year-old turf specialist to be so highly regarded when facing her elders this early in the year, Frankel said he believes her status as the favorite on the Arlington morning line is justified.

"She actually has better [Ragozin] sheet numbers than the older fillies," he said. "She got beat in her last race, but I thought she ran real big."

Melhor Ainda and Mona Lisa both will be attempting to become the first 3-year-old to win the Beverly D.

Wend is trained by Bill Mott, the Hall of Famer who won the 2000 Beverly D. with Snow Polina. A Claiborne Farm homebred by Pulpit, Wend lost her debut on the main track at Aqueduct in November but has since won five grass races in a row, culminating with a neck victory over Wonder Again in the July 2 New York Handicap at Belmont.

is owned by Godolphin and trained by Saeed bin Suroor, the powerhouse team that won the Beverly D. last year with Crimson Palace. Sundrop, a Japanese-bred by Sunday Silence, has run very well in 6 of her 8 career starts, although her most recent appearance in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket resulted in one of her two subpar efforts.

"She's got some fantastic form," said Tony Howarth, traveling lad for Godolphin. "She's probably best at [1 1/8 miles]. You'd like to hold her up and let her use her turn of foot." As for her last race, "she ran too flat for it to be true," said Howarth. "Fillies can be temperamental, can't they?"

European shippers Sundrop, Tarfah, and Mona Lisa all will be making their first start in North America.

Angara, trained by Patrick Biancone, likely would benefit from a swift pace, considering the potency of a late kick she has occasionally flashed.

The field

Beverly D.
Purse: $750,000; 1 3/16 Miles, turf; Grade 1

1SundropM. Guidry1238-1
2TarfahD. Holland12315-1
3Miss TerribleP. Valenzuela12310-1
4MegahertzA. Solis1237-2
5Mona LisaK. Fallon11710-1
6WendJ. Bailey1234-1
7Melhor AindaJ. Velazquez1173-1
8Halo OlaJ. Valdivia Jr.12320-1
9AngaraG. Stevens1238-1
10Wonder AgainE. Prado1238-1

* Track odds
* Television: Saturday, 4-6 p.m. Eastern; ABC