04/25/2002 12:00AM

Dance Me Free finds ideal prep


CALGARY, Alberta - Dance Me Free, unanimous choice as top juvenile colt on this circuit last year, makes his 2002 debut against five rivals Saturday in a six-furlong sprint at Stampede Park.

The conditioned allowance was the only spot in racing secretary Barry McGrath's condition book for Dance Me Free, a three-time stakes winner, and often such races fail to fill. Trainer Sid Gray was smiling at entry time Wednesday morning as the race will afford Dance Me Free a perfect prep for the $40,000 President's Handicap here May 11.

Gray has named Stephan Heiler to replace Peter Wong, who was aboard for Dance Me Free's three stakes tallies last summer before the gelding lost a head decision to Crescent Remark in his final outing.

Dance Me Free banked $97,638 during his championship campaign and has trained smartly this spring, including a bullet work of 1:00.40 last Saturday.

Dance Me Free's main challenge is expected to come from Exclusive Banker, who breaks just inside of him under Perry Winters. Although Exclusive Banker finished well behind for Dance Me Free in their only meeting in the 1 1/16-mile Canadian Juvenile, he did capture the restricted Alberta Premier's Futurity under Winters last September.

Sweet Drummer, a double winner last year, including an allowance victory at this distance in the quick time of 1:11.20, hails from the respected barn of Floyd Arthur and appears the only other threat.

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