09/19/2013 2:18PM

Belmont Park: Dance to Bristol has tall order in Gallant Bloom


ELMONT, N.Y. – After Dance to Bristol left Saratoga with her second stakes victory of the meet in the Grade 1 Ballerina, trainer Ollie Figgins III figured his filly’s next engagement would be a tad easier.

Not so much.

When Dance to Bristol seeks her eighth consecutive victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park, she will face a group that includes Grade 1 winner Dance Card, the undefeated Grade 2 winner Cluster of Stars, and the recent sharp overnight stakes winner Holiday Soiree.

“This is an extremely tough field,” Figgins said. “Leaving Saratoga I was hoping not to catch something this tough, but it did come up tough. But I like my horse; I think she should run well.”

Dance to Bristol, a 4-year-old daughter of Speightstown, has done nothing but run well throughout her career. She has 10 wins and 7 seconds from 18 career starts. Based at the Bowie training center in Maryland, Dance to Bristol has shipped around to win seven consecutive races, including the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses here in June and the Grade 2 Honorable Miss and Ballerina at Saratoga.

“I’m not sure why she performs so good every time,” Figgins said. “Mainly, it’s because she’s come out of every race great. Nothing bothers her. She doesn’t fret shipping. Before and after races she stays in her feed tub.”

Dance to Bristol drew the outside post in the field of nine, which is perfectly fine with Figgins, who expressed concern when Dance to Bristol drew the rail in the Ballerina.

“With her style it’s a good post,” Figgins said. “The speed of the speed is inside of her. She’s faster than some of the others to get herself in a good spot and save some ground. I think we should get a good, fair trip.”

Though she already paid her way into the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint by virtue of her victory in the Ballerina, a Win and You’re In race, Dance to Bristol is not yet a certainty to run in the Breeders’ Cup.

“If she runs good here and comes out of this race good I think that’s a definite possibility,” Figgins said. “If not, it’s something we might want to skip.”

Dance Card is trying to make a case to go in the Filly and Mare Sprint. She won four consecutive races last year at 3, including the Grade 1 Gazelle, but hasn’t raced this year because she had chips removed from both front ankles. Though she has excelled at longer distances, Dance Card is starting back at 6 1/2 furlongs because this is her first start in 10 months.

“She can do anything,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.

“But this is a tough spot. I have a lot of respect for all of them in here. We’re hoping for a good performance and go from there.”

Cluster of Stars is 5 for 5 but has not run since winning the Grade 2 Distaff at Aqueduct in April. Holiday Soiree, second to Dance to Bristol in the Sugar Maple at Charles Town, comes off a sharp victory at Saratoga in her first start for Todd Pletcher. Munnings Sister is 3 for 3 sprinting at Belmont and was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths by Dance to Bristol in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss.

Completing the field are Classic Point, beaten a neck by Dance to Bristol in the Honorable Miss; Villanesca, third in the Ballerina; Defy Gravity; and Crespano.