Wonder Again got the yielding turf trainer James Toner was hoping for and under patient handling from Edgar Prado, she registered an easy 5 3/4-length victory in the $500,000 Diana Handicap (gr. I) at rainy Saratoga Race Course Saturday.
"I'm soaked, but I'm not complaining," Toner said.
Prado brought the 5-year-old Silver Hawk mare along the inside, cut the turn sharply and accelerated away from the field to win under a brisk hand ride. Riskaverse finished willingly to defeat Ocean Drive by 2 1/4 lengths to finish second.
Pacesetting Sand Springs finished fourth, followed by 4-5 favorite Intercontinental, who lost for the first time in four United States starts. Intercontinental fought jockey Jerry Bailey while trailing the seven-horse field through the first turn and lacked much response in the lane.
"I was scared when it started to rain," said Bobby Frankel, Intercontinental's trainer. "Once it did, I knew she was dead meat. She didn't break well. She has always been the type of horse that would pull a little bit. But she was really rank here."
Bailey added, "She relaxed really good by the stand the first time, and then she grabbed the bridle going into the first turn and that was it. She tried to run off. If she tries to run off going a mile and an eighth anytime before the middle of the race, she is never going to have enough left."
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile Diana was 1:48 4/5 on a course switched from "good" to "yielding" when heavy rain hit the track prior to the race.
Prado kept Wonder Again tucked in along the inside as Sand Springs jumped out to a five-length lead while carving out fractions of :23 3/5 and :47 3/5. Ocean Drive and Riskaverse cut into the lead on the home turn and Sand Springs was in deep water when Wonder Again squirted through on her inside. Wonder Again kicked on through the stretch without serious pressure.
Wonder Again pointed out her effectiveness on an off track winning her last race – the New York Handicap (gr. IIT) on soft going at Belmont Park July 5 – by 3 1/4 lengths. She won the Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont last year.
"She ran such a good race last time, I think she got some confidence back," Prado said. "The rain helped today, but I don't think she needed soft turf. She could have won on firm turf today. I'm very happy."
She won for the third time in five starts on the Saratoga lawn. Overall, Wonder Again is 7-2-2 in 17 starts. Her winner's share of $300,000 for owners/breeders Joan and John Phillips pushed her to earnings to $951,582.
"I think two years ago, she was at the top of her game," Toner said. "Last year, nothing went right for us.
"This year, fortunately John (Phillips) decided to race her again. His point was that we didn't get anything done last year. She was sound and he has enough broodmares, so we brought her back.
Toner said he was confident of a big performance regardless of the turf condition.
"On paper, it looked perfect. "We knew Sand Springs and Ocean Drive would be out there early and we knew we wanted to be in a tracking position."
The bay, fifth in the Diana, 2 3/4 lengths behind Voodoo Dancer on firm going last year, is from the Danzig
Wonder Again, the second choice in the field of seven, paid $8, $4.50 and $3.50. Riskaverse returned $7.60 and $5.60. Ocean Drive was $4.60 to show. The exacta was worth $57.50.
Spice Island and Halory Leigh trailed.