07/24/2003 12:00AM

Team Voodoo Dancer doing a no-rain dance


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Faced with the prospect of shipping Voodoo Dancer cross-country for the second time in a month or praying the rain in Saratoga would stop before the weekend, trainer Christophe Clement opted for the latter.

Thus, Clement on Thursday canceled contingency plans to fly Voodoo Dancer to Southern California for Saturday's Grade 1 John C. Mabee Handicap at Del Mar and instead kept her home for the same day's Grade 1, $500,000 Diana Handicap at Saratoga. Clement also entered Mariensky in the Diana just in case the rain continued and the course was soft. Having named Corey Nakatani on both, only one can run.

"I'm hoping we could have a good course. She won the Beaugay on good ground last year," said Clement, about 90 minutes before more buckets of water fell from the sky before to Thursday's opening race. "It's a long way to go to Del Mar to face three Grade 1 winners. It's not like it's a walk in the park."

The Diana is no day at the beach, either. Voodoo Dancer, the 120-pound highweight in the Diana, will face fellow Grade 1 winners Wonder Again and Riskaverse as well as a potent Bobby Frankel-trained entry of Heat Haze and Pertuisane. Snow Dance, upset winner of the New York Handicap, and stakes winners Delta Princess and Quick Tip complete the field.

Saratoga is one of seven tracks over which Voodoo Dancer has won, as she took the 2001 Lake George Handicap. Voodoo Dancer has won eight stakes and has been beaten a length or less in five other stakes, including last year's Diana, which she lost by a nose to Takes Creek.

"She's a small horse, but she loves training, she loves the races," Clement said. "She truly enjoys coming out of that stall and training."

The horse to beat in the Diana may be Wonder Again. She won both her starts over yielding ground here last year, and has been a tough-luck loser in two graded events this year. In the Beaugay, which she lost by 1 1-4 lengths to Delta Princess, Wonder Again tried to come wide while the winner got through on the rail. In the Just a Game, which she lost by two lengths to Mariensky, jockey Edgar Prado waited for an opening on the rail that never came.

"My filly's doing well, she loves it up here," Toner said. "A little give to the ground isn't going to hurt her. She's done everything the right way. It's what we're here for."

Riskaverse was beaten twice here last summer by Wonder Again, but she turned the tables on that foe in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland. Riskaverse runs at nine furlongs for the first time since that race, and is 3-2-0 from five starts at that distance.

Heat Haze has won three straight races since coming to Frankel's barn, but tries nine furlongs for the first time. Pertuisane finished a troubled third behind Wonder Again and Riskaverse in last year's Grade 1 Garden City and has won two of three since. Frankel is worried that soft ground may compromise Heat Haze's closing punch.

"You need good footing to get them going," Frankel said. "If they try to run over that soft crap they don't get the footing to show the acceleration they have," Frankel said. "I would think that Pertuisane would be all right because she's a little more one-paced. Pertuisane might be the one to beat. Her last race was very good and she fits with Riskaverse and Wonder Again."