02/25/2006 1:00AM

Wiggins tops high-priced claimer


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The Gulfstream winter meet is traditionally an active one at the claim box, but it's unlikely too many trainers will be filling out slips for Monday's ninth race, which is carded for horses running under claiming tags of $200,000 to $250,000.

A field of seven older horses will contest the one-mile race, which carries a $46,000 purse and is thought to be the highest-priced claiming event ever run in Florida.

Not surprisingly, the race has drawn a stakes-quality field, led by , who is the only member of the starting lineup racing with a $250,000 price tag. Wiggins has made four of his last five starts against graded-stakes competition, with his only non-graded try during that span a 4 3/4-length victory against statebreds in Hawthorne's High Alexander Handicap Nov. 12.

Wiggins has started twice during the current session, finishing a tiring fourth in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope Handicap and seventh in the Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap.

Trainer Nick Zito will send out Go Now for his 2006 debut. Go Now's last three starts have come against graded-stakes company, but he has not started since finishing ninth after contesting the early pace in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap on Nov. 25.

Go Now won three times from 12 tries last year, his most recent victory coming in a $100,000 optional claiming race at Saratoga in which he rallied to defeat Trapped Again by a nose. The multiple graded-stakes winner Evening Attire was a well-beaten third in that race.

Powerful Touch was a seven-length winner of a four-other-than optional claiming race earlier in the session, in what was only his second start since the fall of 2004. Trained by Bobby Frankel for owner-breeder Frank Stronach, Powerful Touch has captured seven of his 14 career starts and was also second, beaten a head by Offlee Wild, in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes here in 2003.

Kennel Up figures to set the pace. He comes off a fifth-place finish in a $150,000 optional claiming race going a mile on Feb. 2.

Tour of the Cat, a multiple graded-stakes winner, will be making his first start since September 2004 and is likely to need a race.

Upturn, a winner of a $50,000 claiming race on opening day, and Auguri, a distant second behind Powerful Touch in their previous meeting, round out the field.