Saratoga Notebook: McPeek Update; Wonder Again Lives Up to Name; Ipi Tombe Progressing

By Mike Kane and Phil Janack

McPeek Update: Wild and Wicked
Uncharacteristically, trainer Kenny McPeek was a man of few words Wednesday as he talked about Ohio Derby (gr.II) Wild and Wicked's work over the Oklahoma training track.

McPeek used one, two-syllable word to describe the bullet five-furlong breeze in :59.47: "Awesome."

The unbeaten colt is being pointed to the Travers (gr. I) on Aug. 23.

Jockey Shane Sellers rode Wild and Wicked for what was easily the fastest of 10 works at the distance.

"He went great," Sellers said. "He's a great athlete, man. "He's really stepped up to the plate every time so far."

McPeek said he hasn't decided whether Wild in Wicked will run in the Jim Dandy (gr. II) or the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) on Aug. 3.

"I'm squarely placed on the fence still," McPeek said. "I don't know where we're going to go. I don't know yet. I want to see what happens.

"Right now it looks like a two-horse field here. Empire Maker and (Strong Hope) are the only two saying they're running here. At Monmouth it looks like they've got four or five of them there."

McPeek decided to push the work back a day after the heavy rain this week turned the track into a sloppy mess. The surface wasn't much better Wednesday, though.

"We were cautious about doing it," McPeek said. "I worked a filly earlier in the morning and she really worked well over it. It was good. Shane worked it and he felt like the track was OK. We just sat on him. We didn't force it. It was more of a maintenance breeze than anything. It makes you a little nervous, but at the same time you've got a schedule that you're trying to keep. With the weather, it's pretty much made it impossible."

McPeek said that his other 3-year-old stakes horse Best Minister will run in the Round Table at Arlington Park on Saturday. A good performance in that race might carry him to the Travers.

Multiple stakes winner Take Charge Lady probably won't run at Saratoga this season. McPeek said he is planning to skip the mile and a quarter Personal Ensign (gr. I) on Aug. 22 because of the distance and is likely to send Take Charge Lady to the Gardenia at Ellis Park in Kentucky.

Wonder Again Keeps Trainer Toner on Edge
It seems like trainer Jimmy Toner needs antacids when he sends his turf filly Wonder Again out to train at Saratoga. By comparison, the races are easy.

Prior to the Lake Placid (gr. II) last summer, Wonder Again was kicked just above the knee by a stablemate as they walked off the track following a gallop. For much of the day, Toner was concerned that she would miss the race, which she went on to win.

Shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, Toner watched another frightening moment during Wonder Again's final workout for Saturday's Diana Handicap (gr. I) As the filly was galloping out at the end of the breeze on the Oklahoma turf course, the exercise rider narrowly missed colliding with a horse that had just wheeled and dumped his rider.

"We were sweating out the weather and as we got on the turf, it started to rain, so that was one thing," Toner said Wednesday morning. "Then we had to avoid the loose horse. Needless to say, it was a little scary there for a while, but everything went well and we got over everything.

"She always manages to find something to keep my stomach going, one way or the other. If it's not that, it's something else. She finds ways to keep me on my toes, that's for sure."

Wonder Again is winless in two starts this season, but she's perfect in two career starts on the Saratoga turf. Toner has given her more than a week to get reacquainted with her favorite surroundings.

"We were looking to come up here and get her ready for this race, that's why we got here early. She loves Saratoga, so this was our main focus," Toner said. "She's handled the turf up here pretty well. A little give in the ground is not gonna hurt her. We're looking for the same results."

Wonder Again was second by a half-length in her season debut to Delta Princess May 3, and came back to run third, just a head behind runner-up Riskaverse, in the Just A Game Breeders' Cup (gr. I) June 7 over a bog on Belmont Day.

"She's run well this year," Toner said. "The first time back, she just happened to get beat by a nice filly. Last time she got stuck down on the inside and couldn't get out."

Among the fillies and mares Wonder Again is likely to face are Heat Haze and Snow Dance.

"This is a tough race," Toner said. "It has always attracted a top class field, and this year is another indication."

Ipi Tombe Making Progress
Ipi Tombe galloped on a sloppy main track Wednesday morning, continuing her comeback from a minor training injury that bumped her from the Diana.

"I missed a work and decided not to run her," trainer Elliott Walden said. "She's doing good now and everything's going fine."

Ipi Tombe raised her record to 12-for-14 lifetime in her North American debut June 28 at Churchill Downs, winning the grade III Locust Grove by a half-length as the overwhelming favorite. Despite the narrow margin, the Zimbabwean-bred filly toyed with her rivals.

"She ran great. She's a really nice filly," Walden said. "I'm sorry we didn't get to run her Saturday."

Stabled in stall 17 at Walden's Barn 24 on the main track backstretch, Ipi Tombe is expected to run next in the Beverly D Aug. 16 in Chicago.

Around the Spa:
Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Evening Attire picked up his first victory of the season in the eighth race Wednesday. Evening Attire was a main track only entry in the scheduled grass race and landed in the field when all four turf races were moved to the main track. He covered the mile and an eighth in 1:50.16. Trainer Pat Kelly said the gelding may make his next start in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) on July 16... Defending riding champion Edgar Prado got off to a fast start on opening day Wednesday with four victories in seven starts, including Ashado in the Schuylerville (gr. II). Prado will be honored for his 2002 success Thursday with NYRA's second-annual jockey champion bobblehead giveaway. It is the first time that NYRA has offered a weekday promotion and is an attempt to improve the crowd size on what is usually the day of the meet with the lowest attendance... Saratoga Episode will make his first start for Sackatoga Stable in the second race Friday. The 2-year-old New York-bred maiden son of Wheaton is the stablemate of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) winner Funny Cide. Sackatoga's other horse, the filly Wed in Dixie, was euthanized after being injured in training at Belmont Park on July 11.