Joan and John Phillips' Wonder Again picked up another grade II victory Monday afternoon, drawing away in the stretch under jockey Edgar Prado to win the 61st running of the $250,000 New York Handicap (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares at 10 furlongs over Belmont Park's inner turf course before a crowd of 8,713.A thunderstorm had cancelled two earlier turf races, and turned the ground "soft" for the New York 'Cap. That was no problem for Wonder Again, who had handled off going before and who had won the grade I Garden City Breeders' Cup on the inner course in 2002.With jockey John Velazquez and Binya setting the pace of :25, :50, and 1:15 from the rail, which was out nine feet, Prado kept Wonder Again relaxed as she maintained the lead, with favored Spice Island inside. But when Prado asked for Wonder Again for run at the top of the stretch, she opened up and then breezed to a 3 1/4-length victory in final time of 2:05 3/5."She broke good, settled right behind the speed," Prado said. "When I turned her loose, she started kicking in. She took the soft going pretty well. I wasn't really surprised. She needed the race today to go her way, and it did."The victory now points Wonder Again for Saratoga's $500,00 Diana Handicap (gr. IT) at nine furlongs on the turf on July 31.
"Everything went perfect, and Edgar (Prado) rode a superb race," said winning trainer Jimmy Toner. "He had her just where she needed to be, and then she simply went about her business. The soft ground helped her, but I was absolutely thrilled with how she ran."
It was a tight race for second, with Stay Forever nosing out Spice Island for the place. Jockey Jerry Bailey, aboard Spice Island, lodged a claim of foul against Eddie Castro aboard Stay Forever, but it was disallowed.
"The two-horse (Stay Forever) gave me a bump about six times," Bailey said. "It wasn't much, but it was constant bumps and she got out-nodded for place. She handled the track all right today, but the winner was just too good for her."Humaita, Binya, Alchemist and Potra Fabulous trailed, and Meridiana was scratched.Wonder Again paid $9.90 to win as the 5-year-old daughter of Silver Hawk posted her sixth win in 16 career starts. Stay Forever paid $8.60 and $3.60, and Spice Island was worth $2.40 to show.
Bred by John Phillips and Phillips Racing Partnership, Wonder Again has earned $651,582. The New York Handicap was the second start of the year for Wonder Again, who ended a seven-month layoff with a sixth-place finish in the Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) on June 5.(Chart, Equibase)