07/23/2007 11:00PM

Tiz Wonderful tries a second act

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Before there was Curlin, there was Tiz Wonderful.

At the beginning of the year, trainer Steve Asmussen thought he had his best chance to win a classic race with Tiz Wonderful, a son of Tiznow, who had won all three of his starts at 2 in impressive fashion. But before Asmussen could even map out a 3-year-old campaign for him, Tiz Wonderful had a tendon injury diagnosed that knocked him off the Triple Crown trail.

A few weeks later, Curlin arrived in Asmussen's barn, and it was that colt who gave Asmussen his first classic win when he took the Preakness by a head over the Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense.

Now, Tiz Wonderful is back, and he will still get a chance to have some kind of 3-year-old campaign, one that begins Sunday in the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes here against Street Sense and likely three others.

"I thought he was good enough to win the Derby," Asmussen said. "Ability-wise, he was the whole package. He could run fast enough, he could go far enough, exactly as you would want it."

At 2, Tiz Wonderful won his debut here by 12 1/2 lengths. He then swept Churchill Downs' fall juvenile stakes, taking the Grade 3 Iroquois by 6 3/4 lengths and beating Any Given Saturday by one-half length in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club.

"I think all three were brilliant for their own reasons," Asmussen said. "First time out how good is he? Very good. He won a Grade 3 in his second out, and his form is somewhat similar to Curlin's first three races - maiden, Grade 3, Grade 2.''

Tiz Wonderful returned to the work tab on June 4 at Churchill Downs. He has worked eight times leading up to the Jim Dandy, including a half-mile breeze in 49.87 seconds Tuesday morning at Saratoga, a move in which he was going extremely easy while flashing a big, long stride.

In addition to Tiz Wonderful and Street Sense, others pointing to the Jim Dandy are Sightseeing, C P West and Cowtown Cat.

Curlin drills toward Haskell

About 30 minutes before Tiz Wonderful breezed on the main track, Curlin worked six furlongs in company on the Oklahoma training track in preparation for the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 5 at Monmouth Park.

Curlin, working in company with Zanjero, covered the distance in 1:14.27. The two were timed in fractions of 13.40 seconds, 26, 38.20, 50.20, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.40 and seven furlongs in 1:27.40.

"It was a nice, steady work," said Scott Blasi, assistant trainer to Asmussen. "They were both within themselves and galloped out big, it looked like to me."

Zanjero, who finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby and who was beaten a neck in the Grade 3 Northern Dancer, is being pointed to the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park on Aug. 4.

Forty Grams, another Asmussen 3-year-old, worked four furlongs in 48.94 seconds over the main track. Forty Grams won the Alysheba Stakes at Lone Star going one mile on June 30. He will be cut back to 6 1/2 furlongs for Monday's Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes.

Werner firing early, often

It won't take Kentucky-based trainer Ronny Werner long to find out what kind of meet he is going to have here.

Werner brought 10 horses to Saratoga and plans to run at least half of them in the first week, including several in stakes. He was scheduled to run Yes by West in Wednesday's Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes as well as the maiden Warn in a turf race.

On Saturday, Werner will send out Ermine in the Grade 1 Go for Wand Handicap and Cougar Cat in the Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap. Next Wednesday, he will run Rich Fantasy in the De La Rose Stakes.

"The racing office ought to be happy with me the first week," Werner said. "Ten stalls and we're going to run half the barn here the first week."

Ermine, the Apple Blossom winner, will likely be favored in the Go for Wand. She is coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap, a race for which Werner could not find any apparent excuse.

"We checked everything, went over her with a fine-tooth comb, and we couldn't find anything real significant," Werner said. "She didn't show up, and that's not like her.''

Werner shipped Ermine to Arlington Park after that race, hoping the Polytrack would be kinder to his filly. She did breeze five furlongs in 58.80 seconds over it on July 18, though Werner doesn't believe she's crazy about the surface.

Ermine will likely face Fiery Pursuit, Miss Shop, Soul Search, Teammate, and possibly Eyes on Eddy in the Go for Wand.

Cougar Cat has run well lately, finishing second to Fabulous Strike in the Aristides at Churchill and second to Benny the Bull in the Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows. He fired a bullet half-mile breeze in 46.80 seconds last week at Churchill.

"He's got the bridesmaid tag, two seconds in his last two stakes, and he's run very fast," Werner said. "Hopefully, his time will come if we just keep him sound. But he's training very well, I'm very pleased with him."

Among those expected for the Vanderbilt are Abraaj, Attila's Storm, Benny the Bull, Diabolical, and Simon Pure. Nar, Saint Anddan, and Suave Jazz are possible.

Biancone has three for Diana

Trainer Patrick Biancone plans to run three horses in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Diana Stakes.

Danzon and Mauralakana are his two major contenders, while Countess Scala will be entered as a pacesetter for Mauralakana. Countess Scala and Mauralakana should be coupled, as Richard Giacopelli has ownership in both horses.

Danzon, who began her 4-year-old campaign with an allowance win at Keeneland, finished third against males in the Grade 1 Turf Classic and was third as the favorite in the Grade 3 Mint Julep, a race in which she stumbled at the start.

"When they stumble like that, they contract," Biancone said. "She was not relaxed at all."

Mauralakana has won 2 of her last 3 starts, including the Grade 3 Locust Grove at Churchill in her last start.

"I think my two fillies are very close together," Biancone said. "Mauralakana is better on firm ground, Danzon prefers it more soft ground."

On Monday, both showed an affinity for the firm Oklahoma turf course, working four furlongs together in 46.52 seconds.

Others pointing to the Diana are Karen's Caper, Magnificent Song, Makderah, My Typhoon and Take, the Ribbon.

Swap Fliparoo on turf

Swap Fliparoo, who won the Grade 1 Test Stakes here last summer, is entered in Thursday's $80,000 Hush Dear Stakes to be run at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf.

It will be Swap Fliparoo's second career start on the turf. In her second career start back in 2005, Swap Fliparoo finished second in a six-furlong turf race at Belmont Park.

Most recently, Swap Fliparoo finished third in the Grade 3 First Flight Handicap on July 8 at Belmont. Her lone win from six starts this year came in the Grade 3 Sabin at Gulfstream Park.

Allen Jerkens trains Swap Fliparoo. The horse to beat in the race, Lemon Drop Gal, is trained by his son Jimmy.