07/01/2004 11:00PM

Wonder Again back for more


ELMONT, N.Y. - Wonder Again, a stakes winner on the turf at Belmont Park at 3 and 4, will try to make it three years in a row in Monday's New York Handicap for female grass runners.

Wonder Again, now 5, won the Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap as a 3-year-old at Belmont. Last year at Belmont, the daughter of Silver Hawk won the Grade 3 Noble Damsel Handicap. Her overall grass record at Belmont is 3-1-1 in six starts.

Trained by Jim Toner, Wonder Again had a so-so campaign in 2003. Her only win in six starts came in the Noble Damsel. Toner, who trains Wonder Again for her breeders, John and Joan Phillips, said the effects on an allergic reaction accounted for her eighth-place finish in the Ballston Spa Handicap at Saratoga.

Wonder Again also finished fifth at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Diana. Toner said his main objective this summer for Wonder Again is the Diana July 31.

One of the reasons Toner is running her in the Grade 2 New York Handicap is to prepare Wonder Again for the 1 1/8-mile Diana. The New York Handicap will be Wonder Again's first start at 1 1/4 miles and might not have been Toner's first preference except for the fact it's convenient.

"We are pretty much stuck between a rock and a hard place because we don't want to ship around. You do what you have to do," Toner said. "We skipped the New York last year, and I think we came into the Diana on the short side. I would love to see her get a piece of it on Monday. We would be thrilled. What we are trying to do is have her get something out of the race for the Diana."

Toner won the New York Handicap in 1999 with Soaring Softly.

In one start this year, Wonder Again finished sixth, beaten 3 1/2 lengths, in the Grade 2 Just a Game Breeders' Cup on June 5.

"It was a good effort first time out. I didn't expect them to run that fast," said Toner, referring to the final time of 1:33.33 for a mile.

Edgar Prado will be back aboard Wonder Again in the New York, which is expected to draw a strong field, including Spice Island, Binya, Meridiana, Stay Forever, Potra Fabulous, Humaita, and Alchemist.

Shaniko heads Pletcher's Dwyer crew

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the Dwyer last year with Strong Hope, nominated five 3-year-olds to this year's running on July 11.

The most likely of the Pletcher nominees to run in the Grade 2, $150,000 Dwyer is Shaniko. Limehouse is also a possibility, Pletcher said. Forest Danger is being pointed to the $300,000 Carry Back Stakes at Calder on July 10 and Pollard's Vision is headed to the $250,000 Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware Park on July 18. Pletcher did not report his plans for Forest Grove, but said the Dwyer was unlikely.

John Velazquez, who has won the last two runnings of the Dwyer aboard Strong Hope and Gygistar, will ride Shaniko.

Shaniko finished 11th in the slop at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 Northern Dancer on June 12. The 1 1/16-mile Northern Dancer was run around two turns and Pletcher believes the return to one turn in the 1 1/16-mile Dwyer will be to Shaniko's benefit.

"He didn't handle the slop at Churchill, but seemed to come back well," Pletcher said. "I like the one turn. He ran well around one turn when he finished second to Offlee Wild."

Pletcher was referring to a second-level allowance race at Belmont on May 14 won by Offlee Wild, who returned to win the Grade 2, $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs on June 19.

On Friday, the racing office listed The Cliff's Edge, Preachinatthebar, Medallist, and Shaniko as probable starters. Several others were mentioned as possibles, including Ecclesiastic, Golden Look, Jane's Luck, and Joe Six Pack.

Child care gets support

Pletcher and Velazquez, as well as the owners of the Pletcher-trained Purge, made a "generous contribution" to the Belmont Child Care Association, according to a press release from the association.

The BCCA was established in 1998 to create a child-care center, Anna House, at Belmont Park for the working families at New York tracks.

According to the press release, the donation was made possible in part by Bayer Animal Health's sponsorhsip of Pletcher, Velazquez, and Purge, who is owned by Jack and Laurie Wolf, Johns Martin, and Paul Saylor.