05/28/2009 11:00PM

Dancing Forever finally starts season


ELMONT, N.Y. - Had things gone as planned, Dancing Forever would probably have had his final workout Sunday morning in preparation for a repeat bid in next Saturday's Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park.

But Mother Nature put a crimp in trainer Shug McGaughey's plan and now Dancing Forever will run in an allowance race here on Sunday afternoon with an eye toward the Grade 1 Man o' War here on July 11.

Dancing Forever, has not run since finishing third to the European-based duo of Conduit and Eagle Mountain in last October's Breeders' Cup Turf. McGaughey had plotted to run Dancing Forever in the Fort Marcy Stakes here on May 2, but scratched him out of that race when the course came up less than firm. Dancing Forever has shown a dislike for soft ground.

"He wasn't overly ready to go in the Fort Marcy,'' McGaughey said. "It would have been a great place to have gotten a race into him just as this one will be.''

McGaughey said Dancing Forever benefited from the freshening he gave him after a hearty 10-race campaign last year.

"We gave him a little time off, which he hadn't had for a while, and let some of the racing nicks and bruises heal up, and he's done really well,'' McGaughey said. "He had a good work here Sunday morning and his everyday training has been as good as I could want.''

Sunday's race is at 1 1/16 miles, a distance at which Dancing Forever is winless from four starts.

"It's a little bit short for him, but I think if the track's okay, he'll give a good account of himself no matter what,'' McGaughey said.

Nergal, who won a tough allowance race at Keeneland last out, and Baletti, an off-the-turf allowance winner also at Keeneland, loom the major threats to Dancing Forever.

Plans for other McGaughey runners

McGaughey said Imperial Council came out of his eighth-place finish in the Metropolitan Handicap in good order and could return in the Dwyer Stakes on July 4.

"He was at the winner's hip turning for home, he just couldn't finish with him,'' McGaughey said. "We'll take a look at the Dwyer or maybe an allowance race.''

McGaughey said Consequence, winner of the American 1000 Guineas at Arlington last Saturday, would likely be pointed to the Lake George Stakes at Saratoga on July 31. McGaughey did not have a spot picked out for Vacation, who won the Hanshin Handicap at Arlington last Saturday.

Paco Lopez opts for Belmont

Paco Lopez, the Eclipse Award -winning apprentice jockey of 2008, will move his tack to Belmont Park beginning Wednesday, his agent, Cory Moran said. Since the end of the Gulfstream meet, Lopez has been splitting time between Belmont and Monmouth Park, but had been planning to ride regularly at Monmouth.

However, after riding three winners here on May 6, Lopez attracted enough interest from several New York horsemen who also watched him ride with success at Gulfstream over the winter to convince him to try the Belmont meet.

"We are having a good feel about it after speaking with horsemen in New York,'' Moran said. "We want to give it a try, at least up until Saratoga, and see where we're at. When it comes to riding ability, Paco has competed with the same jockey colony all winter at Gulfstream Park and wasn't too far from second-leading rider.''

Lopez was the eighth-leading rider at Gulfstream, but missed significant time due to riding suspensions from his apprentice days at Calder.

Lopez is the regular rider of Smooth Air, who finished second in Monday's Metropolitan Handicap, and is expected to keep that mount.

Atoned to miss Brooklyn

Atoned, a neck winner of the Nasty and Bold Stakes here May 7, will be forced to miss Friday's Gradeo2 Brooklyn Handicap due to a possible injured shoulder, trainer Todd Pletcher said.

"He actually went to Kentucky for a bone scan,'' Pletcher said. "He's off left front, we suspect he has a shoulder injury, but we won't know until we get the bone scan done.''

Atoned, a 4-year-old son of Repent, has 4 wins and 7 seconds from 19 career starts. His biggest win came in last October's Grade 3 Pegasus, which he won by a nose.

Pletcher said he may run Nite Light in the Brooklyn, though that horse just got beat nine lengths by Solar Flare in the Frisk Me Now Stakes last Sunday at Monmouth Park.

Among those considered likely to run in the Brooklyn are defending race winner Delosvientos, Alcomo, Barrier Reef, Don Misil, Lord Kipling, and Rising Moon.