10/31/2010 9:37PM

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: