07/28/2003 12:00AM

Three fillies give potent performances


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - All three Grade 1 stakes on Saratoga's opening weekend featured powerhouse performances by important fillies. Taking nothing away from Lady Tak's explosive victory in the Test and Sightseek's dominant cakewalk in the Go for Wand, the most satisfying of the trio may have been Voodoo Dancer's triumph in the Diana.

Voodoo Dancer, who has now won 11 of 20 career starts, has quietly become the iron filly of the distaff grass division and perhaps in all of racing. The Diana was her 14th consecutive start in a graded stakes and her 17th straight stakes appearance overall, a run that began when she won her stakes debut in Calder's Tropical Park Oaks back on Jan. 2, 2001.

Perhaps most impressive, Saratoga is only one of six different tracks where she has won a graded stakes. The 5-year-old Kingmambo mare is not just a New York, California, or Kentucky horse. She's all three. Is there another horse in training who has won graded stakes races at not only Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga, but also Del Mar and Hollywood, and Churchill Downs to boot?

Based in New York with trainer Christophe Clement, she has made an astounding five separate trips to California. If the Saratoga turf course hadn't dried out so well Friday, Clement was ready to put her on a plane to San Diego for Saturday's John C. Mabee instead of the Diana.

The Diana victory was all the sweeter because she lost last year's edition by a lip and a whisker to Tates Creek, a Juddmonte Farm homebred trained by Bobby Frankel and ridden by Jerry Bailey. This time around, Voodoo Dancer came out on the right side of a photo against the same connections, edging the improving Heat Haze after an electrifying stretch duel.

Voodoo Dancer probably was best in the 2002 Diana, done in by a wide and tardy ride, and she was absolutely best this year, even more so than her margin suggests. Lagging early behind a slow pace, she was put under a powerful drive around the turn by Corey Nakatani, was forced six wide, but closed with ferocity to collar Heat Haze at the furlong pole and then hold her off through a blistering final eighth in 11.34 seconds.

The only thing standing between her and a graded stakes victory at all six NYRA and major Southern California tracks is winning one at Santa Anita, where she finished a close second to champion Golden Apples in the Yellow Ribbon and to nemesis Tates Creek in the Las Palmas last fall. She might complete her sweep of the tracks this year in one of those races or perhaps in a little race called the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, which is being run at Santa Anita this year.

Voodoo Dancer is getting stronger by the season. A mile and a quarter may have been a bit beyond her scope last year, but in her last start before the Diana she won the 10-furlong Beverly Hills, beating both Megahertz, who won Saturday's Mabee at Del Mar, and Dublino, who dead-heated for second with Tates Creek and Golden Apples.

Lady Tak aces the Test

Lady Tak enjoyed a perfect setup and a flawless ride in the Test, but her performance was still outstanding. Close to a very mild pace on the inside, Bailey sent her through at the rail on the turn and she was fresh as she rocketed home to set a stakes record of 1:20.83 for seven furlongs. Two races earlier, the 3-year-old colt Ghostzapper, 15-1 to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint in the weekend's futures betting, needed 1:21.74 to win an allowance race at the same distance.

Runner-up Bird Town couldn't keep up in the Test but got a useful tuneup over the track for her showdown with Spoken Fur in the Alabama Aug. 16. Lady Tak will not attempt to stretch out to 10 furlongs and trainer Steve Asmussen mentioned the nine-furlong Gazelle Sept. 6 as a possible next start, but the seven-furlong Ballerina Aug. 24, the last Grade 1 of the year for sprinting fillies and mares, could prove a more tempting spot.

Sightseek steals Go for Wand show

Sightseek's victory in the Go for Wand at 15 cents on the dollar was virtually a foregone conclusion, but she put on quite a show anyway without even being asked for her best. After tracking a slow pace she and Bailey took over turning for home and drew away to win by 11 1/2 lengths for her third straight daylight Grade 1 victory.

Frankel has two killer older dirt fillies this year in Sightseek and Wild Spirit. They closed as 6-1 co-second choices in the weekend's Breeders' Cup Distaff futures behind Azeri at 3-1. Wild Spirit is iffy for the Cup since she would have to be supplemented for $400,000, but either Frankel filly would be the most formidable challenge Azeri has faced. The reigning Horse of the Year may not have to step outside her division to prove herself after all.