10/14/2002 11:00PM

BC Countdown - Distaff: Dancethruthedawn is retired

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BONSALL, Calif. - The field for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff became a bit clearer on Tuesday with the retirement of Dancethruthedawn and an impressive workout here at San Luis Rey Downs by the expected favorite, Azeri.

Dancethruthedawn, who won the Queen's Plate last year at age 3, was retired after exiting the recent Spinster Stakes with an injury.

"She has a nondisplaced fracture in her right front leg," trainer Mark Frostad said from his barn at Woodbine. "She's going to be retired and bred."

Frostad said that Dancethruthedawn likely would be bred next spring to A.P. Indy.

With Dancethruthedawn out, the prospective field for the Distaff was reduced to approximately eight. Pre-entries were due to close on Tuesday and were scheduled to be announced on Thursday.

Dancethruthedawn, a 4-year-old daughter of Mr. Prospector out of Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Dance Smartly, was bred and is owned by the Sam-Son Farm of Tammy Samuel-Balaz, the daughter of the late Ernie Samuel. Dancethruthedawn won seven times in 16 starts, and earned $1,609,643.

In addition to capturing the Queen's Plate, Dancethruthedawn also won this year's Go for Wand Stakes at Saratoga, this year's Doubledogdare at Keeneland, and last year's Woodbine Oaks.

Azeri, who is expected to be a heavy favorite in the Distaff on Oct. 26 at Arlington Park, had her penultimate workout on a drizzly, gray morning at San Luis Rey Downs. With exercise rider Brian Eide aboard, Azeri never took a deep breath while sharply breezing three furlongs in 35.60 seconds. It was her first work since capturing the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap two weeks ago.

"I'm starting to get nervous," said trainer Laura de Seroux, who said she believes Azeri can be Horse of the Year if she wins the Distaff and top contenders in the Classic are defeated.

De Seroux said Azeri would have another workout at San Luis Rey Downs on Monday, and then be flown to Chicago on Tuesday.

"I just want to give her a couple of three-eighths works, have her gallop out five furlongs," de Seroux said. "I'm just trying to keep her from getting too fresh."

De Seroux said she did not need to do much work with Azeri because there are only 24 days between the Lady's Secret and the Distaff.

"I like not having to be in a position of having to do anything serious before the race," she said. "The Lady's Secret took care of that."

Kelly duo Arlington bound

Trainer Pat Kelly's two Breeders' Cup hopefuls were converging on Arlington Tuesday, with Evening Attire on an overnight van ride from New York and Riskaverse taking a much shorter trip from Keeneland. Riskaverse was to arrive here later Tuesday, with Evening Attire due in early Wednesday morning.

Both horses were to have been pre-entered in Breeders' Cup races on Tuesday, Evening Attire in the Classic and Riskaverse in the Filly and Mare Turf. Evening Attire will start as one of the favorites in the Classic while the status of Riskaverse remains up in the air. Riskaverse won the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland this past Saturday, and Kelly isn't yet certain she'll start in the Filly and Mare Turf.

"We'll just have to let her tell us," he said. "It's going to be pretty tight."

Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Evening Attire breezed Monday at Belmont in advance of his trip to Chicago, and Kelly said Evening Attire probably would train lightly here Thursday and work early next week.

Kelly had planned to fly Evening Attire to Chicago but said a New York-to-Chicago flight scheduled for Oct. 16 was scrapped. To Kelly, it was much more important when Evening Attire arrived at Arlington rather than how.

"The only decision I made was getting there 10 days in advance," Kelly said. "The plane would have been nice, but he's a good shipper."

BC Chase attracts eight

The last two winners - All Gong in 2000 and Quel Senor last year - are among the eight entrants for Saturday's $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase at Far Hills, N.J. Run over about 2 5/8 miles and 17 fences, the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase is expected to have a major influence on the division championship. The field includes Double Leaf, Flat Top, Pelagos, Tres Touche, Turkish Corner, and Zabenz.

One notable absence is It's a Giggle, the winner of the Royal Chase at Keeneland earlier this year. He did not enter because his connections were concerned that the ground would be too soft.

While there is no betting at the Far Hills meeting, Zabenz is considered the favorite, having won the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers' Steeplechase at Saratoga in late August.

Fraulein retired

Fraulein, winner of the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor in her last start and a candidate for the Filly and Mare Turf, has been retired and will ship from Arlington to a Kentucky farm on Wednesday.

"There's nothing wrong with her," said Peter Boothman, an assistant to trainer Edward Dunlop. "The ground here is on the firm side and the competition is so tough. She's heading to a breeding farm tomorrow."

The 3-year-old Fraulein retires with four wins from 10 starts and earnings of $536,175.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen and Marcus Hersh