07/27/2005 11:00PM

Wonder Again looks vulnerable


NEW YORK - The first Saturday of the Saratoga meet boasts a pair of $500,000 races, the Grade 1 Diana Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf and the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes, the local prep for the Aug. 27 Travers Stakes. The Jim Dandy takes on new meaning with the news of the injury to the Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner, Afleet Alex, who would have been an imposing figure in the Travers.

Diana Stakes

This race is loaded with interesting angles, such as Wonder Again, who ran perhaps the best race of her distinguished career winning last year's Diana by almost six lengths. Another is Sand Springs, who moved into trainer Bill Mott's barn at the start of this year and is now in the best form of her career. Yet another is Winendynme, who is running back in a week and shipping clear across the country after an unsuccessful start in last Saturday's John C. Mabee Handicap at Del Mar.

And as for me, I like Film Maker. I question whether Winendynme is good enough, and we'll see just how good Mott has Sand Springs, because she has always been a bet-against going this far in top company. Wonder Again will certainly take a lot of beating, but she drew the outside, and I wonder if she'll be able to get covered up early, an important component to her success.

Besides, Film Maker finished only a neck behind Wonder Again last time out when she was third in the New York Handicap, and that was after a bad trip. Film Maker had all kinds of traffic trouble into and around the far turn, but she still made up almost three lengths on Wonder Again in the final furlong, and ran her last quarter-mile in an excellent 22.40 seconds.

I would also include Angara in exotic wagers. Angara was beaten less than two lengths by good males when she was fifth in the Manhattan Handicap most recently, and that after losing ground around both turns.

Washington Park Handicap

Perfect Drift is going to be a heavy favorite, and it is no mystery why. Five of his last eight starts have come in Grade 1 events against horses like Ghostzapper, Saint Liam, Roses in May, and Pleasantly Perfect, and there is no one even remotely close to that kind of horse in this spot.

Perfect Drift, however, has also lost his last 12 starts in stakes races, and his last stakes win came 22 months ago. He may well win this race because he is still the best horse on paper, but he is tough to take, or stand alone with, in multi-race exotics, at low odds.

The striking thing about the composition of this race is the complete lack of speed. Billy Allen may flash some early foot, but his Serbian and Swedish form is suspect, to say the least. I think Mambo Train may find himself the controlling speed, so I'll take a flyer on him.

Mambo Train ran a solid race last time out when beaten a head and a nose after being close to a legitimate early pace in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker, and he earned a very competitive Beyer Speed Figure of 103.

Jim Dandy

I picked Noble Causeway in the Kentucky Derby and gave him an excellent chance to get a piece of the Preakness, and in both races he rewarded me with double-digit losses. Surprisingly, I have not signed the divorce papers yet, although I may after this race, because I'm going back to him one more time.

Noble Causeway is still the colt who ran so well at Gulfstream, winning twice at this distance, and finishing second in the Florida Derby. And his closing style fits the projected pace scenario that has Mr. Congeniality conspiring with Reverberate to produce strong early fractions.