03/18/2006 1:00AM

Wild Gams starts to fulfill potential

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Wild Gams had impressed trainer Ben Perkins Jr. so much in the mornings, that before she ever ran he told owner Ebby Novak "this might be the nicest filly we ever raised.''

As Wild Gams won just once in her first four starts, Perkins knew what Novak must have been thinking.

"He probably thought I was nuts," Perkins said. "I kept telling him this is a nice horse, believe me."

Saturday, Perkins finally felt vindicated as Wild Gams ran past the previously undefeated Celestial Legend to win the Grade 3, $110,600 by 3 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct. Celestial Legend, who set the early pace, settled for second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Oprah Winney.

It was the third straight victory for Wild Gams.

Celestial Legend, who had won her first six races, jumped out to a 1 1/2-length lead through splits of 22.74 and 45.58 seconds. Wild Gams, under Eibar Coa, stalked from the rail with Oprah Winney to her outside.

Turning for home, Wild Gams came off the rail and ran by Celestial Legend approaching the eighth pole to win going away. Wild Gams ($7.40) covered six furlongs in 1:09.66.

"I thought there would be a little more early pressure on [Celestial Legend]," Perkins said. "Being on the inside I told Eibar just sit behind them. She showed a good kick here and it seemed like she moved a little forward off her training."

Dale Capuano, the trainer of Celestial Legend, said his filly was simply second best.

"We just got outrun; we ran as good as we could run," Capuano said.