11/23/2006 12:00AM

Fiery Dancer heads Pago Hop


NEW ORLEANS - Fiery Dancer heads a solid field of eight 3-year-old fillies in Saturday's feature race at Fair Grounds, the $75,000 Pago Hop at about a mile on the turf. Though she has only one win in six races on the grass, Fiery Dancer has run well in stakes competition, and finished second last May in the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs.

"She's a pretty nice filly," said trainer Merrill Scherer. "She does everything easy. She'll rate if you want her to, she can lay close to the pace or come from behind."

That versatility may come in handy over the Fair Grounds turf course, which is notoriously hard on front-runners.

"I don't care how slow they go, it seems horses can't carry their speed over that course," said Scherer. "If it's true to form, 85 percent of the grass races there are won by closers."

A full sister to stakes winner Atticus Kristy, Fiery Dancer led all the way in an allowance race at Keeneland in April, then finished second after contesting the lead through the stretch in the Edgewood. She made a middle move before fading in the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill June 17, then had a very rough trip in the $200,000 Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs. After fading to fourth in the Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park on Aug. 12, Fiery Dancer was given a rest.

"After the rough trip at Colonial I thought she was getting a little sour so we backed off her for a while," said Scherer.

Fiery Dancer returned in a six-furlong sprint at Churchill on Nov. 1, rallying to finish third over a sloppy track.

"She made a big run," said Scherer. "It was really just to get a race into her."

Several other fillies in the race have solid credentials. The Wes Hawley-trained Aly's Vow won the Lone Star Oaks on the turf and has never been off the board in six grass starts. Rolling Sea, trained by Scott Blasi, is a multiple stakes winner who is trying the turf for the first time. Delicate Dynamite, trained by Tom Amoss, has a 3-3-1 record in 11 races and has a strong closing kick that should suit the Fair Grounds course. Trainer Shug McGaughey is shipping in Moya, who finished fourth Oct. 9 in the Pebbles at Belmont Park.

The lightly raced Page Turner has never finished worse than second in four starts and loves the grass.

"I had her mother, Sparkling Novel, who was strictly turf," said trainer Frank Springer. "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."