09/23/2010 3:06PM

Class edge could help Dance to My Tune end long drought in Las Madrinas

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POMONA, Calif. – Dance to My Tune will try to win for the first time in nearly three years Saturday when she starts favored in the Las Madrinas Handicap, the first of two $50,000 stakes at Fairplex Park.

Losing streak? No problem. Only five fillies and mares entered the Las Madrinas (race 3), and Dance to My Tune enters the 1 1/16-mile race as the class of the field.

The picture is less clear in the Pomona Derby (race 11). A field of six entered the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds, and neither of the top contenders – Gallant Gent and Bench the Judge – has won beyond seven furlongs.

While class and distance are main handicapping issues, the challenge for Fairplex is to generate interest in stakes with limited relevance. Two years ago, the Las Madrinas and Pomona Derby purses were $100,000. Economic challenges led to the 50 percent purse reduction, making them indistinguishable to most Los Angeles County Fair stakes.

Dance to My Tune is the 121-pound top weight in the Las Madrinas, based partly on her runner-up finish to Zenyatta early this year. Jerry Hollendorfer trains Dance to My Tune, who will be ridden by Martin Pedroza. The 6-year-old Dance to My Tune’s most recent start was a good runner-up finish in the restricted Adoration at Del Mar; her most recent win was Nov. 11, 2007.

Front-runner Briecat will keep the favorite honest on the lead. Value Stream, Calle Vista and Madel will try to rally from behind.

In the Pomona Derby, two horses with established stakes form on the five-eighths mile Fairplex track are the key entrants. The problem for Gallant Gent and Bench the Judge, however, is that neither has won a distance race.

Gallant Gent has finished close in long races. Winner of a Fairplex sprint stakes in 2009, earlier this summer he finished third to undefeated Twirling Candy in the one-mile Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar. Gallant Gent is trained by Craig Lewis and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza.

Bench the Judge finished second in a seven-furlong stakes race two weeks ago at Fairplex. Trained by meet leader Doug O’Neill, Bench the Judge will be ridden by Pedroza, whose 12 scheduled mounts Saturday include seven likely favorites.

Stacy’s Hope finished second last out in a highly rated allowance sprint against older. The Pomona Derby outsiders include Pico Pico, Twenty Hawks, and Southern Victory.