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Dancer's Bajan on familiar path
ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Dancer's Bajan has been a model of consistency through his career, with eight wins including seven in Ontario-sired stakes company.
On Saturday, Dancer's Bajan will be looking to add to his impressive portfolio when he makes his seasonal bow in the restricted New Providence for 3-year-olds and up.
"He's going into the race a happy horse," trainer Robert Tiller said.
Dancer's Bajan, a 5-year-old gelding, also opened up his 2008 campaign in the New Providence. He finished sixth, beaten just 4 1/4 lengths.
But Dancer's Bajan went on to win three stakes over the remainder of the meeting, with victories at 1 1/16 miles in the Steady Growth and Sir Barton sandwiched around a score in the 6 1/2-furlong Shepperton.
"Six furlongs is a little short for him," Tiller said. "He'd prefer seven furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth.
"But you have to start somewhere. He was in training at Paul Buttigieg's farm at the end of January, and he's been here since early February.
"His fitness will not be an excuse."
Tiller acknowledges that he looked at a couple of spots for Dancer's Bajan prior to the New Providence but elected to await the stakes.
"We want to protect the horse as far as running with Ontario-sired stakes horses," Tiller said.
"There's enough races for him during the year that he can be very productive. Why not stick with the program? He's won almost $800,000.
"And, I think he's as good or better now than he was last year."
Sharpay, After the Applause stay home
Sharpay, upset winner of a "B" maiden special at five furlongs here April 17, and After the Applause, a close second here last summer in the six-furlong Ontario Debutante, both were entered in Friday night's $100,000 Inaugural at Presque Isle Downs but instead will contest a first-level allowance race for 3-year-old fillies here Saturday.
Chad Beckon, who rode the Kentucky-bred Sharpay to her maiden victory for trainer Reade Baker and had the call at Presque Isle, retains the mount for Saturday's six-furlong race.
Eurico da Silva, who was named on the Kentucky-bred After the Applause for the Inaugural, will ride the filly for the first time here Saturday as she makes her seasonal bow for trainer Nick Gonzalez.
Baker seeks repeat in Tom Ridge
Baker could see action at Presque Isle on Saturday evening as Ring of Greatness is entered in the $100,000 Tom Ridge, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds.
Ring of Greatness, claimed for $40,000 from a 10-length debut win here last August, was an also-ran at odds-on when off to a poor beginning in his next start at Charles Town.
But Ring of Greatness, a Florida-bred 3-year-old gelding, returned to romp in a first-level allowance over six furlongs here April 18, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 88.
Jim McAleney, who piloted Ring of Greatness that day, retains the mount for the Tom Ridge, which Baker won last year on Labor Day with eventual Canadian Horse of the Year Fatal Bullet.
Bear Lahaina sharp for Hendrie
Baker also plans to be represented here Sunday with Bear Lahaina set for the Grade 3, $150,000 Hendrie, a 6 1/2-furlong race for fillies and mares.
A Kentucky-bred 4-year-old, Bear Lahaina made her seasonal debut here April 12 and was an impressive winner of a third-level allowance/optional $80,000 claiming race at 5 1/2 furlongs.
Bear Lahaina had been slated to run here opening weekend but had problems at the gate and was scratched.
"She got over that quickly," Baker said. "She's training super; I think she'll run super."
Bear Lahaina tuned up for the Hendrie with a bullet five-furlong breeze in 59.80 seconds here last Sunday.
Da Silva, who piloted Bear Lahaina to victory in both her 2009 bow and her last start of 2008, retains the mount.
Verdana Bold returns in Hendrie
Verdana Bold was slated to make her seasonal bow in the six-furlong Whimsical here April 9 but wound up being a late scratch from that six-furlong race for fillies and mares. She will be looking to make up for lost time in the Hendrie.
"She either stepped on herself or kicked herself on the top of her hoof wall that morning," trainer Danny Vella said.
"There was a bit of a hole - it was nothing serious, but she couldn't run on it," Vella said.
Verdana Bold, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old, missed three days of training but has since come back to work well, including a six-furlong drill of 1:12.60 here last Monday.
"She went unbelievably well and very comfortable," said Vella, adding that he had caught Verdana Bold galloping out seven furlongs in 1:26.60.
Last year, Verdana Bold won the six-furlong Star Shoot and 1 1/16-mile Selene. She missed by a nose in the seven-furlong Duchess.
Tyler Pizarro has the call for the Hendrie.
Pizarro also is the regular rider of Field Commission, a 4-year-old colt who was a bang-up third when making his seasonal bow for Vella in the six-furlong Jacques Cartier here April 25.
Field Commission was beaten a half-length when battling hard through his first start in more than five months.
"I thought for a minute we were going to win it," Vella said. "He should improve off that race; he's training very well."
Vella drops appeal on Cryptonite Kid
Vella lost one of his 2008 wins during the off-season when he dropped an appeal of a ruling that had denied Cryptonite Kid his apparent victory in a first-level allowance race here last Sept. 28.
Cryptonite Kid, owned by the Class Action Racing Stable in which Vella is a partner, had survived an inquiry that day, but the Ontario Thoroughbred industry appeal board upheld a protest by trainer Fred Seitz and jockey Robert Landry, the connections of second-place finisher Tizthemaninthemoon.
Vella had lodged an appeal of the industry board's decision to the Ontario Racing Commission's head office, but he and his partners decided not to pursue the matter.
"It was going to take so long, and we got tired of waiting," Vella said.
* Freelance racing journalist Bill Finley, author of "Betting Synthetic Surfaces," will be on hand here Sunday for a one-hour seminar beginning at 11 a.m. on the third floor of the grandstand.