06/02/2008 11:00PM

Ballado Dancer named top claimer


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Ballado Dancer, who was claimed for $10,000 here last June 29, has been named recipient of the Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club's 2007 claimer of the year award.

The group will honor Ballado Dancer and its other champions of 2007 at its annual awards day here at Woodbine on June 15.

Ballado Dancer was dropping from a second-place finish at the $20,000 level when owner/trainer Marko Mesic filled out the claim slip.

"I'd run against him when he ran for $20,000, and he was impressive that day," said Mesic. "When they dropped him in for $10,000, I got interested. I thought he had to be worth that much."

Ballado Dancer, a Florida-bred gelding who was 4 at the time, was worth that much, and much more.

"When I claimed him, he was in good shape," said Mesic. "I got him just at the right time - he was on the upswing."

In his first start for Mesic, Ballado Dancer won for $20,000. Then, following a second-place finish for $40,000, Ballado Dancer won for $47,500 and $62,500 claiming prices before winding up his campaign with a close second-place finish in the Grade 3 Kennedy Road at six furlongs.

Ballado Dancer, who was in Florida this winter and was late getting back into training, opened up his 2008 campaign with a close second-place finish in the 5 1/2-furlong prep for the Jacques Cartier on April 6. In the Jacques Cartier itself, Ballado Dancer showed his usual high turn of early foot but faltered to finish sixth, beaten just 3 1/4 lengths in the six-furlong stakes here April 26.

"The first time he ran, he needed one more work," said Mesic. "His second race was probably too close. But, he ran against the best sprinters on the grounds."

Ballado Dancer came back four weeks after the Jacques Cartier to try seven furlongs for just the second time in his career, in a third-level allowance/optional claiming race here May 23. With regular rider Emile Ramsammy in the irons, Ballado Dancer set the pace but weakened to finish fifth in the field of seven.

"I always wanted to try him seven furlongs, but maybe he's just not a seven-furlong horse," said Mesic.

"We'll just have to regroup. I still think he's a nice horse."

Fatal Bullet going for four in a row

Trainer Reade Baker was a participant on hand for Preakness Day, as Kentucky Bear finished a troubled sixth in the main event.

Baker also will be on the scene for Belmont Day this Saturday, but his focus will be on one of the supporting events, as Fatal Bullet is scheduled to start in the Grade 2, $250,000 Woody Stephens.

Fatal Bullet, owned by Danny Dion's Bear Stable, will be seeking his fourth straight win in the Woody Stephens, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds.

After beginning this season with a comfortable win over five furlongs for $62,500, Fatal Bullet put together back-to-back daylight scores moving through his first two allowance conditions.

"I started looking for something for him about a half-hour after his last win," said Baker, who had watched Fatal Bullet romp by six lengths here May 23.

Edgar Prado has the call on Fatal Bullet for the Woody Stephens.

Kentucky Bear on target for Colonial

Meanwhile, Kentucky Bear worked for the first time since the Preakness when breezing five furlongs in 1:01.20 on a "good" training track here last Saturday.

Also owned by Dion, Kentucky Bear has as his next target the Grade 3, $600,000 Colonial Turf Cup, a 1 3/16 mile turf race for 3-year-olds at Colonial Downs on June 21.

Elvis Trujillo, who piloted Kentucky Bear to a 6 1/2-length victory in his debut at Gulfstream this winter, has the call for the Colonial.

Maiden back on turf

Baker also will be represented at Belmont on Thursday with Find the Wire, a 3-year-old colt whom he trains for Jim and Susan Hill, entered in a maiden race at 1 1/4 miles on the turf.

Find the Wire is coming off an 11th-place finish in a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack here May 11. Before that, however, Find the Wire had finished second in a 1 1/8-mile maiden turf race at Gulfstream on April 14.

Finishing third that day, a head behind Find the Wire, was Solitaire, whose next start was a second-place finish here for trainer James Bond last Sunday's 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial.

East End Tap, making his first for the Baker barn, finished fifth in the Plate Trial, beaten 8 3/4 lengths.

"I thought I made a mistake putting the blinkers on him," said Baker. "He'll be better in the Plate with blinkers off.

"Even then, Bond's horse looks like a super-tough horse."

Tyler Pizarro, who rode East End Tap for the first time in the Trial, retains the mount for the $1 million Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here June 22.

Niagara Thunder loosens up

Niagara Thunder tuned up for the Queen's Plate with a leisurely four furlongs in 50.20 seconds under exercise rider Terry Husbands here Tuesday morning.

"He was getting a little bit sharp," said Alec Fehr, who trains Niagara Thunder for Centennial Farms (Niagara) Inc. "I didn't want to do too much with him, just give him an easy half."

Niagara Thunder, who ran three times at Gulfstream this winter, made his local 2008 debut in the 1 1/16-mile Wando here April 25, ending 3 3/4 lengths back in third.

In his next and latest appearance, in a first-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles, Niagara Thunder ended fifth of 11 following an eventful trip. Wide into the first turn, Niagara Thunder trailed early and closed some ground off a slow pace to end fifth, beaten 3 1/2 lengths.

"He lost a lot of ground early, and that kind of threw him out of the race," said Fehr. "He made a big run after that, and had to go between horses.

"I think it was a good learning experience for him - he got a lot of racetrack in his face.

"Considering everything, I thought he ran well, and the more important thing was that he didn't have a scratch on him. He came out of the race in really good shape."

Javier Castellano, who piloted Niagara Thunder to a 4 3/4-length maiden win over a mile on turf in his final Gulfstream appearance, has the call for the Queen's Plate.