10/31/2010 10:37PM

Sunday doings at Churchill Downs - Breeders' Cup week


She is a vision in the morning, a light grey filly glowing beneath the early-morning light at Churchill Downs. But she has a training method all her own. When she gallops under exercise rider Penny Gardiner, they are accompanied by a long-striding dark-bay pony. And when she returns to the barn, a second pony, her “teddy bear,” named Oliver, usually greets her.

That’s how John Ward Jr., her trainer, describes it. The lifelong horseman says he was inspired to gallop her with a pony due to similar training methods used on Darby Dan’s Graustark, a son of Ribot who, until an injury in the 1966 Blue Grass, was considered a favorite for the Derby.

Just a few hours after her exercise? She is sometimes grazing, just for more outdoor time. And if a visitor approaches, her head pops up, and her large ears cock forward to see if that visitor might be armed with a treat.

She is Dancinginherdreams. When the long-faced filly was led to the paddock for the Grade 2 Pocahontas this afternoon, she was accompanied by her dark-bay morning escort.

Ward’s unorthodox methods paid off. Dancinginherdreams, whose resemblance to her sire Tapit is accentuated by a white Sure-Win, the same as he wore, zoomed to a 5¼-length victory, despite being throttled down by a confident Julien Leparoux. It was her second win in as many starts. 

And now, Ward says, he is putting his grey charge away until February at Gulfstream Park. His goal? The Kentucky Oaks.


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Trainer Ronny Werner was sporting a new look in the paddock this afternoon -  a look he'd probably have preferred to avoid.  A sizeable bandage covered stitches on his forehead, the result of a kick in the head from a horse that morning.  But it didn't stop him from schooling Breeders' Cup contender Central City, whose teeth occasionally flashed in a way that made the colt seem quite amused.

Ronny's wife Cindy, probably not amused when initially hearing of her husband's injury, could laugh about it later.  How many stitches did Ronny get?  She wasn't sure, she chuckled, but, she said - in racetrack lingo - the injury was 'the length of a toe grab.'


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Just for a smile: Kentucky Derby Museum resident Perfect Drift and his friend Winston get some exercise on Sunday in the Churchill Downs paddock:




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Just me More than 1 year ago
Barbara, I love your picture of Perfect Drift and his companions. He looks like the perfect gentleman. It's wonderful to see pictures of the retired horses. I was a big fan of his when he raced and still am. His buddy, Winston, is pretty handsome as well. Thanks for your great work. The pictures really make the personalities come alive.
Michele LePage More than 1 year ago
Babara you always know how to capture the moment. Thnk you for sharing those moments with us.
Crgabe More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the update on Ronny Werner. I was on the backside Sunday and saw him stepping into an ambulance. Looked scary but at least he was walking on his own. I'll have to use Central City this week now!
Nancy Milburn Kleck More than 1 year ago
Love the photos and commentary - it's a nice respite from the all the handicappers' banter!
Donna-Gayle More than 1 year ago
Barbara, thanks for the great shots of Dancinginherdreams. A talented beauty--and what an eye she has. Wow! Roll, she did yesterday afternoon! I'm beyond pleased for John and Donna Ward and the Oxleys. Hoping she winters well down in Florida and moves forward throughout the coming months. I'd know the white saddle towel with red star anywhere, Beautiful Pleasure wore it every morning, as did Monarchos, and all Ward runners, still. The Sure-Win was worn by Monarchos in his races, everpresent, including the Derby. Thanks again for your outstanding photos and paragraphs. Each installment, enjoyed.
Linda More than 1 year ago
Always love your pictures and comments.
Dani More than 1 year ago
Barbara - your photos and comments are one the best things that DRF has ever done for its fans. I think it also brings in those new to the sport who are more interested in the horses and getting to know them, then numbers and handicaping which may seem daunting. Keep up the wonderful work you do. It is very much appreciated. A horses 'smile' says it all.
RoMo More than 1 year ago
. . .. Could the photos and words for the subjects be any more different .. and yet so connected as to be puzzle parts from "our" preferred sport ..? I hope those that select photos for the Eclipse consideration take a good look at "The Drift" and Winston photo .. That all three .. Big Beast, Man and little beast .. are all head down, deep in thought .. and represent all the metaphysical mysteries that's peculiar to "our sport" .. .. Ms Barb .. how do you do it ..?
Ken Wiener More than 1 year ago
A very thoughtful comment by RoMo. I would just ask the wonderful Barb to try to include the names of the men and women with the horses in her photos. These exercise riders, grooms and hotwalkers, who work in anonymity, deserve to be recognized. >
Sara More than 1 year ago
Barbara>>>YOU are the BEST at keeping everyone in the spotlight and so generous with your photos! I'l be in Thursday and I hope to see you :)
Bev Pettersen More than 1 year ago
Thanks for including the pic of Perfect Drift. So nice to see these "old" horses. Too often we never hear anything of them.