04/14/2004 12:00AM

Victory Encounter on rebound


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Victory Encounter arrived in New York on Wednesday morning from California as the mystery horse for Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Victory Encounter has won six of nine career starts, including the Grade 2 El Encino at Santa Anita in January. But she comes off the worst performance of her career, a last-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 2 La Canada on Feb. 14.

Trainer John Sadler still isn't sure what went awry in the La Canada, but he says he believes whatever it might have been is behind her.

"She trained a little flat for the race, and she didn't run at all," Sadler said. "We were fully prepared to turn her out. We did a nuclear scan, and the results were negative. I figured I would just train her, and when she's training with a lot of enthusiasm I'd look for a race. She's trained well for this. Hopefully, we can get that funky race out of our mind."

The La Canada is the only funky race on Victory Encounter's chart. Sadler claimed Victory Encounter, a Victory Speech filly, for $32,000 one year ago only because he lost a shake for another horse he tried to claim earlier that day.

Since the claim, Victory Encounter has won an allowance race by seven lengths and then finished third in a turf race at Hollywood Park. Victory Encounter won two more optional claiming races before taking the restricted Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar, overcoming a bad start.

"She got completely left that day," said Sadler, who trains Victory Encounter for Hollywood screenwriter, producer, and director Tom Mankiewicz. "She won by a length, but she was five or six the best. She gave them a head start."

Though Victory Encounter has won two stakes from off the pace, Sadler said she has enough speed to be close to the pace. Victory Encounter will be cutting back to a one-turn race for the first time under Sadler's care.

"I think it'll be good for her," Sadler said. "She does have more speed than her last three races indicate. I'm going to look for her to be closer than she has been."

Victory Encounter will be only the second horse Sadler has run in New York. In 1992, he won the Bay Shore Stakes with Three Peat.

Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Victory Encounter in a field that includes Grade 1 winners Buy the Sport and Passing Shot, as well as multiple stakes winners Smok'n Frolic and Nonsuch Bay and the New York-bred Princess Dixie.

Shake You Down happy to be home

Not that Shake You Down didn't enjoy Arkansas, but according to his connections, he nearly sprinted off the horse trailer when he arrived back at Belmont Park on Monday. Shake You Down returned after winning the $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap last Thursday.

"They opened the barn door, and he tried to bolt down the shed row to his stall," trainer Scott Lake said. "He was happy to be home."

Not only is Belmont Park home, but it is where Shake You Down will make his next two starts - the Bold Ruler Handicap on May 8 and the True North Handicap on June 6. Shake You Down won both of those races last year and is undefeated in three starts at Belmont.

Lake will also point Shake You Down to the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 10. Shake You Down won that race in 2003.

Though Shake You Down won the Count Fleet, Lake said he didn't think he handled the track particularly well.

"I told the owner I'm not thrilled about the track surface for this horse," Lake said. "I said if he's 75 percent he should win; I thought that's all he had to be, and I think that's basically what he was."

Zakocity now with Reynolds

Zakocity, who was fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby and Aventura Stakes, has been transferred to trainer Pat Reynolds. Zakocity arrived in Reynolds's Belmont Park barn April 9 and will be pointed to the $250,000 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 22.

Zakocity, who was purchased privately two starts back by Paul Pompa, had a tough trip in the Aventura, where he finished fourth, five lengths behind winner Kaufy Mate. Zakocity came out of the race with cuts and scrapes on his legs.

"There was a speed jam going into the first turn, and he took the worst of it," said Reynolds. "With the Peter Pan we have 4 1/2 to five weeks to get to know him, put a little weight on him. He's a decent horse, he looks like a stayer, and he should fit in nicely around here."

Zakocity, who had been trained most recently by Marty Wolfson, has won just 2 of 14 starts.

Rare Gift heads Friday feature

Rare Gift, who finished third in the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes last out, drops in class Friday, when she faces five rivals in a $46,000 second-level allowance race at nine furlongs.

Rare Gift, a daughter of Unbridled's Song, finished 6 3/4 lengths behind Last Song in the Bonnie Miss. Two starts before that, she won a nine-furlong entry-level allowance race by nearly three lengths.

Rare Gift meets older horses for the first time as she faces Board Eligible, who was beaten a nose and a head in her last two starts. Freeroll, another 3-year-old, drops back to allowance company after running fifth in the Grade 3 Cicada.

Chase Gap, who adds blinkers, Becky in Pink and Gold Vault complete the field.

Remember to check your tickets

A horseplayer who wanted to wager $40,000 to show on Minister Eric in the seventh race Wednesday at Keeneland was instead punched a similar ticket on Bikini Wiggle in the eighth at Aqueduct. The bettor, who made his wager through NYRA's tele-bet phone system, realized the mistake in time to cancel all but $2,900 in wagers on Bikini Wiggle. It was unclear whether that bettor was able to get any money down on Minister Eric.

Bikini Wiggle finished third, paying $2.40 to show. Thus, the bettor won $580. A $40,000 show wager on Minister Eric would have resulted in a $2,000 profit.