Voodoo Dancer, Wonder Again in Beaugay

(from track report)
Voodoo Dancer and Wonder Again, a pair of grade I winners that sit near the top of the female turf division, square off for the first time in Saturday's $100,000 Beaugay Handicap (gr. IIIT).

Run at 1 1/16 mile over Aqueduct's turf course, the Beaugay is the first New York turf stakes this year for fillies and mares. It is the co-feature on a 10-race card that also showcases the Withers (gr. III) for 3-year-olds.

Throughout his 40-plus years training Thoroughbreds, Jimmy Toner has developed numerous horses into grade I turf winners. He's had a knack for developing fillies too, bringing out the best in stakes winners Memories of Silver, Tribulation and the nation's champion turf female in 1999, Soaring Softly.

Toner had a new success story last year: a filly named Wonder Again.

In a four-month span last season, Wonder Again developed into a world-class racehorse. She hit her peak during the summer and early fall months, rattling off victories in the Lake Placid (gr. IIT) and Garden City Breeders' Cup (gr. IT). When she was on her game, few of the fillies she faced could match her stride when it counted.

After reeling of four straight wins, however, Wonder Again proved beatable. The 2-1 favorite in Keeneland's Queen Elizabeth (gr. IT), she never fired and faded to fifth. Thinking his filly was "over the top" after she had done so much in such a short time, Toner put Wonder Again on the shelf. He's had Saturday's Beaugay penciled in for her 4-year-old debut for quite some time.

"I'm glad to have her back in action," Toner said. "She had a good winter down in Florida. She's filled out and developed. She was kind of light framed last year. Of course, you would like to catch an easier spot than this coming off a layoff, but you've got to start somewhere. I think she can be better this year. We've got her on a good program.

"We crammed an awful lot in a short amount of time last year and it took its toll on her. She wasn't at her best in the Queen Elizabeth. It happens."

Jockey John Velazquez has the mount on Wonder Again. Joan and John Phillips bred and own the filly.

Although he's got a classy filly in Wonder Again, it's understandable why Toner isn't thrilled about facing Voodoo Dancer in the Beaugay.

Voodoo Dancer, the defending Beaugay champion and 120-pound starting high weight, has been one of the top female turf horses in training over the last couple of seasons. A seven-time stakes winner, Voodoo Dancer enters this race the same way she did last year: off a winter freshening.

"She had a good winter," trainer Christophe Clement said. "She's very consistent and shows up every time. If she's as good as she was last year I'll be very happy. You never know with women."

Less than $5,000 away from $1 million in earnings, Voodoo Dancer drew post 8 with jockey Jean-Luc Samyn aboard. Voodoo Dancer is undefeated in five starts at the Beaugay distance.

Arthur Hancock's Owsley, yet another graded stakes winner on turf, also makes her seasonal debut in the Beaugay. A 5-year-old mare, she really improved during the second half of the 2003 racing season when scoring wins in the Glens Falls (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga and Win Star Galaxy (gr. IIT) at Keeneland. Owsley, trained by Randy Schulhofer, will be ridden by jockey Javier Castellano. She is a three-time winner from five starts on Aqueduct's turf course.

$100,000-added Beaugay Handicap (gr. IIIT), fillies and mares 3 & up, 1 1/16 mile on turf
PP. horse, Wgt., Rider
1. Cozzy Corner (KY), 113, Norberto Arroyo, Jr.
2. Peanut Gallery (KY), 113, Joe Bravo
3. Dynamic Lady (KY), 112, Aaron T. Gryder
4. Miss Gazon (IRE), 113, Dennis Carr
5. Wonder Again (KY), 118, John R. Velazquez
6. Delta Princess (KY), 113, Michael J. Luzzi
7. Owsley (KY), 118, Javier Castellano
8. Voodoo Dancer (KY), 120, Jean-Luc Samyn
9. She's Vested (KY), 113, Richard Migliore
Main Track Only
10. Message Red (NY), 117, (No Rider)
11. Vespers (KY), 117, (No Rider)
12. Annatoga (FL), 111, Julian Pimentel