09/18/2013 4:42PM

Belmont Park: Dance Card set for 2013 debut in Gallant Bloom

Barbara D. Livingston
Dance Card, idle since winning the Grade 1 Gazelle last November, will make her 4-year-old debut Saturday.

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ELMONT, N.Y. – Dance Card won four consecutive races topped by the Grade 1 Gazelle in her 3-year-old season and appeared to be one of the more intriguing fillies and mares to watch in 2013. But ankle chips prevented Dance Card from making an impact in the distaff division this year.

On Saturday, her abbreviated 4-year-old campaign is set to launch in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park.

The Gallant Bloom is carded at 6 1/2 furlongs, which will be the shortest distance at which Dance Card has run. All of her wins last year came at 1 1/16 miles or farther, including the Gazelle at 1 1/8 miles, which she won by four lengths last November at Aqueduct.

“Six and a half, we don’t know, but being off for almost a year, we thought we could start there and possibly look at the Breeders’ Cup in November,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, referring to the Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.

The Gallant Bloom, which had its purse raised from $200,000 to $300,000 last month, came up very deep, with Dance to Bristol, winner of seven straight races, and Cluster of Stars, undefeated in five career starts, among the field of nine.

“Very, very tough race, competitive race,” McLaughlin said. “But we’re just happy to get her back. We feel like she’s one of the best fillies around.”

Dance Card drew post 6 and will be coupled in the wagering with Villanesca, who comes off a third-place finish to Dance to Bristol in the Grade 1 Ballerina last out. Villanesca drew post 2 and will be ridden by David Cohen.

Dance Card had a history of drifting out in the stretch of her races, and McLaughlin never could figure out why last year. Ramon Dominguez had ridden Dance Card in all five of her previous starts, but with his retirement due to injury, Junior Alvarado will be Dance Card’s rider Saturday.

“She doesn’t drift out in the morning,” McLaughlin said. “We hope she’s better this year with the time off. We’ll tell Junior and warn him, but hopefully she runs straight.”

Dance to Bristol, the 121-pound highweight, drew the outside post and will be ridden by Xavier Perez. Cluster of Stars, who has not raced since winning the Grade 2 Distaff in April, drew the rail under Javier Castellano.

Also entered are Holiday Soiree, Defy Gravity, Munnings Sister, Crespano, and Classic Point.

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Fundraiser lets a fan own a horse

A fundraiser for the Exceller Fund will enable one fan to own a 10 percent stake in a horse for a six-month period.

Fans who pledge by Oct. 1 to make a minimum $15 monthly contribution for one year to the Exceller Fund, one of the pioneers in equine aftercare, will be in the running to own the stake in a 2-year-old filly named Great Cross, trained by Gary Contessa, a member of the Exceller’s board of directors. The winning fan will receive 10 percent of the horse’s earnings – without any of the expense – for a six-month period that begins with the filly’s first start.

Great Cross is a daughter of Kitten’s Joy out of the Indian Charlie mare Spirit Line, which Contessa thought made a “great cross” from a breeding perspective. Contessa said the filly could be three to four weeks away from racing.

“I’m going on the assumption she’ll be like all of the other Kitten’s Joys and be a turf horse,” said Contessa, who donated 10 percent of the 50 percent interest he owns in the filly. “I like her. She’s a big, good-looking filly.”

The Exceller Fund was formed in 1997 after news of Exceller’s death in a slaughterhouse was made public. The organization acquires Thoroughbreds who might be at risk for slaughter and works to find a home for them once their racing careers are finished.

This fundraiser is in conjunction with the 35th anniversary of Exceller’s upset over Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Affirmed in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

For more information on the drawing and the organization, visit Excellerfund.org.