04/12/2007 11:00PM

Sunriver slated for return

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Sunriver and Diamond Stripes, two graded-stakes-winning 3-year-olds from 2006, are scheduled to make their 4-year-old debuts against each other in a third-level allowance race Sunday at Aqueduct.

Of course, Mother Nature could have a say if this matchup takes place. With a strong nor'easter in the forecast, there is a very good chance the track will be sloppy, or the card could even be canceled. Further, if the track is wet, Sunriver would most likely scratch out of the one-mile race, according to trainer Todd Pletcher. Sunriver, who won the Grade 2 Peter Pan and finished third in the Belmont Stakes, went 0 for 2 on wet surfaces last year, including a last-place finish in the Jim Dandy on July 29, his last race.

Pletcher said Sunriver came out of the Jim Dandy with an infection in his right hind ankle that took significant time to clear up. Sunriver resumed training in September, but Pletcher was not satisfied with how he was doing and decided to give him the rest of the year off.

Sunriver returned to training at Palm Meadows in Florida and shows eight workouts since Feb. 19, though they're not as fast as his works last year. Pletcher said that is a product of the surfaces over which he has been training.

"We haven't tightened the screws," Pletcher said. "He seems to have come back well. He's gotten bigger, stronger, wider - all the things you like to see a horse do from 3 to 4. We expect him to run well.''

Sunriver's biggest threat figures to come from Diamond Stripes, who went 3 for 3 last year, including a victory in last October's Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes at the Meadowlands.

Shortly after that race, Diamond Stripes was found to have a chip in his ankle that needed to be surgically removed. Like Sunriver, Diamond Stripes returned to the work tab in February, and shows nine breezes, including a half-mile move move in 47.86 seconds over Aqueduct's main track.

"I like the spot that he's in,'' trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said. "I want to run him here in New York in an allowance race. He's ready to run, and after that I'm looking for either the Suburban or Stephen Foster.''

Though Diamond Stripes has not raced over a wet surface, Dutrow said he believes that "without a doubt, he'll love it.''

Edgar Prado, who rode Diamond Stripes in two of his three wins last year, is coming in from Keeneland to ride.