08/23/2009 10:28AM

Dancing in the Union Avenue


  In the Union Avenue Stakes at Saratoga, Dance Gal Dance should be a heavy favorite, and deservedly so.  She has been beaten twice in eight starts.  In her first defeat in May 2008, she suffered a knee chip and went to the sidelines for surgery.  In her other defeat, she was returning from a 13-month layoff following that operation.  And in both losses, she finished second.

  She has a big edge in Beyer Speed Figures, and although she has never trailed at any pace call on her past performances, she has shown she can run "hooked."

  But from a pacefig and general handicapping perspective, she might be worth taking a small shot against Monday.

  Dance Gal Dance breaks from post No. 2, and to her inside is the Bob Baffert-trained Under Serviced, who hasn't run since November.  Dave Grening quoted "custodian" assistant trainer Tonja Terranova as saying Under Serviced was losing weight and thus got a vacation. The layoff, though, is immaterial here, except that many horses returning from such a break become keyed up and show even more speed than usual.  Under Serviced is not as talented on paper as Dance Gal Dance and probably doesn't have much chance of beating her, especially off the bench, but she seems to be training well and could easily become a thorn in the favorite's side. Two races back, Under Serviced ripped off pacefigs of 93-97-93 in Belmont's seven-furlong Iroquois Handicap last October; the half-mile fig of 97 is better than any half-mile pacefig run by Dance Gal Dance.

  In other words, Under Serviced could have the necessary speed to keep up with Dance Gal Dance early, and her No. 1 post position limits John Velazquez's options and makes it likely he will gun her early and try to take Dance Gal Dance out of her comfort zone.  The alternative would be to rate Under Serviced, in which case Dance Gal Dance figures to dominate the pace and the race as well.

 Even if Under Serviced can't get in front of Dance Gal Dance, any regression from the latter's career-high 94 Beyer 20 days ago in the Fleet Indian combined with serious pace pressure from her inside could be enough to set the race up for a good old-fashioned Saratoga upset.

  Dance Gal Dance might be too good. She might just keep running.  But since she'll be in the vicinity of 6-to-5 or even money, why not take a shot with Silvercup Baby, the 6-1 fourth choice on the morning line?  Silvercup Baby couldn't handle Dance Gal Dance last time, but has won two of her last three dirt starts, including an Aqueduct allowance at 6 furlongs in which she rallied from a dozen lengths off the pace. Stranger things have happened - especially at Saratoga.