07/19/2007 12:00AM

Elle Runaway battles winless streak

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Elle Runaway, who finished second behind Ambitious Cat in last year's Dance Smartly, will have to bring her "A" game to the table here Sunday when she takes on the favored Arravale in this year's edition of the 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

But Malcolm Pierce, who trains Elle Runaway for Live Oak Plantation, believes she is coming into the Grade 2, $300,000 Dance Smartly on a high note and isn't about to make a prerace concession speech.

"It's no easy spot," Pierce said. "But she can hold her own with these fillies on her best day."

A Kentucky-bred 5-year-old, Elle Runaway doesn't often throw a bad one but has gone 0 for 14 since recording back-to-back wins in the Ontario Colleen prep and the Ontario Colleen here in summer 2005.

Elle Runaway appeared to have a good chance of ending that drought when she made her last start in the Grade 2 Nassau, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares here June 2. But Elle Runaway was no match for the victorious Strike Softly, now sidelined for the season with a suspensory injury, and hung in the stretch while finishing fourth.

May Night, who shipped in from Kentucky and finished 1 1/2 lengths back in second place, and Essential Edge, who ended another neck back in third, are in the Dance Smartly lineup.

"I think the turf was maybe a bit hard for my filly that day," said Pierce, who also noted that Elle Runaway was making her first start in six weeks. "She likes a little give in the ground.

"I hope she can move forward off that race. She's been working up a storm."

Garrett Gomez, here to ride Obrigado in the Northern Dancer on Sunday, has picked up the mount on Elle Runaway for the Dance Smartly.

Essential Edge going good

Essential Edge will be attempting to pick up the baton from Ambitious Cat, who was Canada's champion turf filly or mare for trainer Eric Coatrieux in 2005 and was retired to the breeding shed last fall.

Also trained by Coatrieux, Essential Edge won the Ontario Colleen last year at 3 but has been blanked in five subsequent starts.

"I think she's doing well," Coatrieux said. "It's the best we've ever had her. She's learning to relax a little bit, and we need that from her. I'm expecting a big race out of her."

Emma-Jayne Wilson, who rode Essential Edge for the first time in the Nassau, will be back in the saddle for the Dance Smartly.

Lost Answer prefers softer turf

For a horse who came within a half-length of winning last year's Northern Dancer, the 7-year-old gelding Last Answer certainly is not getting much attention heading into Sunday's running of the Grade 2, $700,000 feature.

Last Answer opened up as much as eight lengths in the soft going that day under regular rider Emile Ramsammy and battled hard only to succumb to the charging Sky Conqueror and finish second. But Last Answer came into that Northern Dancer off a solid effort at the 1 1/2-mile distance in the Singspiel, and this year he has failed to make much of an impression in three outings.

"He's run really flat all year long," said Mike Keogh, who trains Last Answer. "He just doesn't seem to have been the same horse this year. We've pulled bloods on him. We can't find anything wrong, and he's physically sound."

Last Answer, who usually is prominent early in turf routes, was well back early in his last start in this year's Singspiel and wound up fourth, beaten 5 1/2 lengths.

"He didn't break too sharp, and he was kind of flat-footed leaving there," Keogh said. "I'd like to see him closer to the pace, for sure."

Keogh also is hoping that a more giving turf course will help Last Answer rediscover his best stride.

"I really don't think he likes a firm turf," Keogh said. "I think it hurts his feet a little bit.

"I was really pleased to see the rain Wednesday night."

Northern Dancer telecast

The Northern Dancer will be featured on a live one-hour telecast beginning at 4:30 p.m. on The Score television network.

Woodbine's Jim Bannon, Jeff Bratt, Sandy Hawley, and Renee Kierans will provide commentary and analysis on the telecast, which also will feature taped coverage of the Dance Smartly.

Dancer's Bajan wins Deputy Minister

Dancer's Bajan ($4.30) wore down Fudgethebottomline in the stretch to prevail as the favorite in the $125,000 Deputy Minister Stakes here Wednesday night.

Dancer's Bajan carried 126 pounds in the seven-furlong test for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds.

Ridden by Todd Kabel for the first time, Dancer's Bajan dueled through very slow fractions with Legal Move, the 128-pound highweight, in the four-horse field.

Fudgethebottomline made an inside bid on the turn and took a slim lead until the eighth pole, where Dancer's Bajan assumed control and edged away to win by three-quarters of a length. Red Raffles was third and Legal Move faded to fourth.

Dancer's Bajan completed the distance in 1:23.94 and banked $78,750 for 3 Sons Racing Stable Ltd.

Kabel said the race went the way he and trainer Bob Tiller had planned.

"Bob and I talked about it, and it looked like there wasn't going to be any pace," Kabel said. "He said to let him be where he wants to be. We had a good stalking trip and were in control at all times."

There was no show wagering because of the scratch of Spread the News.

* The Ontario Racing Commission has approved Woodbine's request to add racing on three Thursdays in August. Woodbine cited improved field sizes as the reason for requesting the Aug. 9, Aug. 16, and Aug. 23 dates.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink