08/20/2007 11:00PM

Dance Smartly leaves an impressive legacy


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - When he learned that Dance Smartly had died last weekend, the memories flooded back for trainer Jim Day here at Woodbine on Wednesday morning.

Day trained numerous champions during his tenure as trainer for Sam-Son Farm, which lasted from 1978 to 1994. Dance Smartly, however, still occupies a special place in Day's back pages.

"She was certainly as good a horse as any person ever trained," said Day, 61, who is still active here at Woodbine. "She was always a pretty amazing vehicle. She was so versatile. Nowadays, a lot of good horses have their little niches. She ran well at every distance and on every surface you can imagine.

"She was so compliant; she'd do whatever you wanted her to do. She'd give herself a chance to run strategic races."

Dance Smartly's 3-year-old campaign, in which she was undefeated in eight starts in 1991, underlines Day's assertions.

Beginning with a victory here in the Star Shoot at six furlongs, Dance Smartly went on to win the 1 1/16-mile Selene, the 1 1/8-mile Canadian Oaks, and the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate, all here at Woodbine.

Dance Smartly then moved to Fort Erie to win the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales and returned to Woodbine to become the first filly to capture the Canadian Triple Crown with her win here in the Breeders' Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on turf.

Then, after defeating males for the fourth straight time here in the Grade 2 Molson Million at 1 1/8 miles, Dance Smartly concluded her amazing campaign with a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs.

Dance Smartly's Distaff success was the first by a Canadian-bred in a Breeders' Cup race, and the filly was honored at year's end with Horse of the Year and 3-year-old filly awards in Canada and an Eclipse Award for her division in the United States.

Day, however, recalls that Dance Smartly's final preparations for the Breeders' Cup were anything but smooth.

"After she won the Molson Million, she had seven weeks to the Distaff," said Day.

"She had a little problem, and she had a very quiet three weeks. Then we took Wilderness Song down to Keeneland for the Spinster, and we took Dance Smartly with us.

"We were going to train her there for a few days and then take her to Churchill to get adjusted."

Day became alarmed, however, when Dance Smartly showed signs of being unsound following a routine jog at Keeneland.

"We shipped anyway to Churchill," said Day. "Dr. Alex Harthill, who I didn't know at the time, looked at her and thought she had a bruise in her coffin bone. We dealt with that, but she needed to be training pretty seriously, and we had to tread lightly."

Day did not begin to rest easy until Dance Smartly worked six furlongs in company with stablemate Tiffany's Secret, who had won the previous year's Woodbine Oaks.

"She worked brilliantly," said Day. "I knew we were in pretty good shape."

And while Dance Smartly seemed to be a comfortable winner of the Distaff, she in fact may have avoided disaster by inches.

"She got clipped," said Day. "She had a fiberglass patch on her right hind, protecting a quarter crack. You could see the nick on the bandages; it ripped a chunk out of her patch.

"Maybe without the patch, she would have had her quarter ripped off."

Dance Smartly returned to the races as a 4-year-old, but her final campaign was anticlimactic.

After undergoing surgery on both ankles the previous December, Dance Smartly had recurring foot problems and was retired on Sept. 24, 1992, after pulling a suspensory in her right front leg.

Dance Smartly's success continued in the breeding shed.

Mark Frostad, who succeeded Day as Sam-Son's trainer, had the pleasure of training Dance Smartly's offspring.

"They were grand-looking horses," said Frostad. "All of them had talent."

Dance Smartly was the Sovereign Award recipient as Canada's outstanding broodmare in 2001 after the filly Dancethruthedawn became her second straight foal to win the Queen's Plate.

Scatter the Gold, a full brother to Dancethruthedawn, had won the previous year's Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales and finished third in the Breeders'.

Dancethruthedawn, who had won the Woodbine Oaks prior to the Queen's Plate, went on to finish second in the Prince of Wales and was voted Canada's champion 3-year-old filly at year's end.

The following summer, Dancethruthedawn won the Grade 1 Go for Wand at Saratoga.

Dance Smartly was not in foal when she had to be euthanized at age 19 at Sam-Son Farm in nearby Milton. The farm said she suffered an injury in the paddock, which was related to an arthritic stifle.

Her last foal is a 2-year-old filly by Gone West.

New jockey Pinto set for first race

Melanie Pinto will be a new face in the jockeys' room here when she makes her debut in Wednesday's eighth and final race aboard Run Justin Run, trained by John Ross.

"I got my license a week ago," said Pinto, 26, who lives in nearby Caledon. "I'd originally planned on doing it a little later but had this opportunity for John Ross, and he's been good to me.

"I'm definitely ready, and I'm very excited."

Pinto was introduced to the track during her school days by a friend of the family, trainer Jim Stoehr.

"That's when I got hooked," said Pinto.

Upon graduating from high school, Pinto began working at the racetrack as a hotwalker for trainer Grant Pearce and then moved on to grooming with trainer Malcolm Pierce and his wife, Sally.

"I had no riding experience," said Pinto. "That's where I started to learn. They put me on my first horse; Sally taught me a lot."

Pinto went on to work with the late Donnie Campbell and then as a freelance exercise rider before hooking up with trainer Josie Carroll.

Last year, she began galloping horses for trainer Mac Benson.

"That's where I still am today," said Pinto, who is being represented by jockey agent Alan Raymond.