06/13/2002 11:00PM

Crowned Dancer heads Haggin


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Crowned Dancer is making it difficult for trainer Chris Paasch to curb his enthusiasm. "He is a scary horse," Paasch said of the 2-year-old.

Crowned Dancer's dazzling stakes win three weeks ago - he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 92 - established the colt as California's leading juvenile. But wait, it's only June. "It's early in the year," Paasch admitted, "and I'm sure between now and the Breeders' Cup, there will be a lot of nice 2-year-olds."

Nonetheless, Paasch and majority owner Charles Cono can't help envision what the city of Chicago looks like in autumn. "If we dare to dream, and end up this fall at Arlington, he's going to be a very mature horse," said Paasch.

He already is. After two starts, Crowned Dancer has emerged as the towering favorite Sunday in the $75,000-added Haggin Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Seven runners entered the 5 1/2-furlong Haggin. Oberwald will be second choice following an impressive maiden win that was validated when two he beat returned to win. Oberwald is coupled with Luzern; Fabulous World and Maui Wish are coupled; Royal Place and Light Up the Phone make it five wagering interests in the Haggin, race 3.

Crowned Dancer was purchased at a March 2-year-old sale for $225,000 and Paasch planned to give him time to acclimate. "I usually stop on 2-year-olds to let their bones remodel and their brains settle down," he said. But when Crowned Dancer arrived at the track, he acted like a veteran. "He settled in, never turned a hair, so rather than turn him out we said let's go on with him."

The colt, by Tactical Advantage, finished second in a troubled debut against maidens, then romped by five lengths May 26 in the Willard Proctor, winning the five-furlong race in 57.86 seconds over a dead track. He won ridden out, and jockey Alex Solis told Paasch afterward "he wanted to do more."

He'll get that chance Sunday, from post 4. While Crowned Dancer is the hot favorite, his rival Oberwald is by the hottest stallion. He is one of two Haggin runners by freshman sire Swiss Yodeler, who has sired seven winners at the meet.

Oberwald is big, but matured early. "He's 17 hands, looks like he'll run a mile and a half, but he worked 22.80 from the gate," trainer Mike Harrington said of a March workout.

"The ones that are precocious are usually the best. If I knew Oberwald would get a perfect trip and run his race, there'd be no sense even running [Luzern]."

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